The news about the end of Gungor hit me oddly - with simultaneous feelings of sadness and inevitability. Here's my #GungorStory.
It started out pretty mildly. I heard "Beautiful Things" at some point; enjoyed it, kinda hoped we could play it at my church (we did, once, much later). I listened to the album and enjoyed it, but it didn't really stick at first. Same with Ghosts - I really enjoyed it, but it didn't quite land at first with the weight it has for me now.
But then everything changed.
I first had the opportunity to hear them live as part of a truly incredible tour, with David Crowder Band and John Mark McMillan, in Grand Rapids, MI. Though I was ostensibly there for the other two headliners - who were fantastic - it was Gungor that blew my fucking skullcap off.
It was just the two of them, plus a rotating few other musicians for different songs. I remember the exact moment I woke up to what was happening in that room - and it definitely had something to do with beatboxing cellist Kevin Olusola. But it continued when I realized that *everyone* on that stage was absurdly talented. Whether it was Michael shredding through "You are the Beauty" or funk-jamming through "Doxology", or the raw power and soulfulness of their combined voices, I was hooked.
Michael took a solo moment to sing "Song for my Family", which perhaps stuck with me more than anything else from that night - the pain of seeing what the church often is, and the hope of what it could be. I remembered my own frustration at the church, and all that seemed wrong, despite the good I knew I'd seen and experienced. They sang "Wake Up Sleeper", and my heart roared to life with the vigor of a thousand hands shaking to life a lifeless corpse.
I dove in *hard* after that night. I dug through the back catalog (didn't make it further back past Ancient Skies, though I do still enjoy that stuff from time to time), I found every Youtube video I could, including some of Lisa's solo stuff. I lobbied hard to get this music in rotation in the church band I was in, as often as I could. I succeeded more than I expected.
I wore out my fingers in late night practice sessions, trying to figure out "Dry Bones" so I could play it in an Ash Wednesday service. We did, and it was one of the most powerful moments I can remember in that room.
At another service, we did a "Beautiful Things / He is Here" medley in which a pastor, one of my dearest friends from the church, delivered Amena Brown's spoken word with a fire and joy I'll never forget. (His and mine is a complicated story for another time.)
At another service, we sang "This is not the end" and I cried, because I remembered my wife's request that it be played at her funeral. I still can't make it through the melodies without choking up.
I remember being a bit confused but still excited when Gungor announced the birth of The Liturgists, an outlet for "Gungor-style church music", while Gungor itself would then be free to be more weird and out-there. (lol, and nod to latest TAATR: Transitions). I followed this with the same fervor, as it became new music in Vapor, meditations, a podcast, and a whole new movement of sorts. I was fascinated and enjoying it, but I was sort of just along for the ride. I didn't know what was coming.
I followed the stories of @mike and @vishnu straight into my own sudden deconstruction. At first I was just mildly concerned that their stories had taken turns that didn't seem like what I thought Christianity was supposed to be (to put it mildly, ha). This unnerved me a bit, but I still felt "safe" from it, if I can put myself back in that time and mindframe for a second. But then I started taking everything apart too, and soon I found I couldn't stop.
Nothing made sense anymore. I had dug up the ground I was standing on, and I was starting to wonder how much of my life this unraveling would take down with it.
And somehow, all the while, Gungor was making the soundtrack to the life, death, and life again of my faith.
"Lion of Rock" gave me comfort and peace in a season of loss that seemed to mirror what was happening internally. "One Wild Life" reminded me that the world is massive and mysterious and wonderful, and that I could trust that I could let go and fall into that wonder. "At Sea" was a healing salve as I realized how trusting my wife with all my doubts and the changes I was going through reflected back to me the richness and safety of our relationship.
"Light" reminded me of all I've been unable to see and the gift of fresh eyes. Eventually, "You" gave me permission to acknowledge how much I've changed, how much I've left behind, and to be okay with it, even when I've drifted far enough to horrify and deeply concern a hundred past selves.
I walked through deconstruction and reconstruction as the OWL trilogy unfolded. There are probably numerous other examples, but what stands out more than any other is this: singing "Free" at the Chicago gathering gave me back the feeling I'd lost after spending many years primarily connecting to God through music, which had become a piercing and surprising grief as I'd taken apart the ideas that I used to sing so loudly. There I was, bereft of certainty, but swept up once again in divine love.
Also also: I named my own musical project The Great Homesickness - yes, after the Rilke poem, but _because_ of the Gungor song. It expresses the deepest longing of my stubbornhearted hope, in two perfect minutes.
This is an instance for folks who follow The Liturgists Podcast, The Alien Podcast, and other things The Liturgists create.