We pile rocks as altars of remembrance, set aside certain days as sacred, and even share communion meals to recall and reflect. Our faith is built on remembering.
I AM THEY, a pop-acoustic worship group, stands as a modern-day altar to the Lord. The members themselves are the testimonial stones - each with their own stories of trial and triumph.
Matthew Hein, although having grown up involved in ministry and surrounded by the truth of the gospel, had found himself trapped in an addiction to pornography. From the age of thirteen this was something he had hid successfully, but as a leader in his church and newly engaged to his fiancé Tori, he knew it was time to reveal this inner battle. He confessed this sin to his fiancé, his pastor, and God himself, expecting to lose everything - but the rejection never came. Instead of losing all he had, Matt felt the freedom he had wanted for so long, like he could breathe again. This heavy rock he had carried is now a part of an altar.
Sara Palmer, after finding out her marriage was over, barricaded herself in her closet, and cried out to God to take her fears. Her sense of self had been so tethered to her marriage that she didn’t know who she was outside of that relationship. The Lord began to show Sara her true identity. She saw a mountain before her. A huge immovable fear. But through faith, this mountain was moved and God showed Sara who she really was. Sara brought a piece of this mountain with her and laid it on the altar.
Justin Shinn, after hearing cops knock on his door, and flushing pounds of heroin down the drain, left his house that day in handcuffs. At just twenty years old, Justin was one of the biggest drug dealers in his county. Justin’s mom was also arrested because of cocaine he had stashed in her dresser. Seeing his mom in handcuffs through his jail cell window was Justin’s rock bottom. The judge looked down on him, questioning whether he was even a salvageable member of society. He got down on his knees and prayed to God for the first time in years begging him for change. And God changed his life. Justin began to get involved in his church and eventually started leading worship again. The musical instruments he had pawned for drug money he bought back. The Lord brought music and worship back to his life and the heavy chains of his addiction were finally laid at the altar.
Abbie Parker, after walking through a divorce and moving back into her parent’s home, fearing the disappointment of her family and her friends, asked God, “How did I get here?” In her childhood bedroom, Abbie remembered who she was as a daughter, a sister, and ultimately a child of God. She no longer placed her identity in her successes or failures but in God himself. Abbie had felt the weight of failure, but God saw her as His own. She was able to walk free, and leave the heavy lie of failure on the altar.
Jon McConnell, on New Year’s Eve, found himself in a bar he had played music in for years, to a crowd who had heard his songs over and over. He felt stuck as yet another year rolled in and he was doing nothing new. God didn’t seem to be using him how he had expected. So he quit. He gave up on doing music in his own strength. He let go of everything he had been chasing and put it before God. Shortly after this moment of surrender, Jon received an opportunity to sign a deal with I AM THEY. Jon let go of his ambitions, surrendered his life, and laid it down on the altar.
Out of these trials came songs of deliverance and worship. I AM THEY’s sophomore album Trial & Triumph opens with a shout of new joy and assurance with their track “My Feet Are On The Rock.” Along with this joy is a feeling of candid honesty. After walking through the valley, the band is sharing all that the Lord has shown them. The track “Scars” is an anthem of rescue. We all tend to hide the ugliest parts of our lives. We bury our bruises under layers of perfectionism and pride. I AM THEY is peeling back those layers, not hiding their scars, but gratefully wearing them as marks of their own redemption stories. This new album is an audible communion. A musical supper of remembrance of not only what Christ did for us on the cross, but of what He is still bringing us through today. It is a call to join the band in laying down the burdens we carry, to link arms and walk together as followers of Christ through trial and triumph.
I AM THEY IS:
Matthew Hein - lead vocals, acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, bass
Sara Palmer - drums, percussion
Justin Shinn- keys, concert drum, banjo
Abbie Parker - lead vocals, keys, harmonium
Jon McConnell - lead vocals, guitar, keys, banjo