Rend Collective brings hope and revival to Australia – and the world

We have a mid-tour chat with band leader

Irish gospel band Rend Collective is on the road during its first Australian tour when Eternity catches up with frontman and drummer Gareth Gilkeson.

“To see the support here in Australia is so humbling and also exciting. You know, it feels like a home away from home. So that’s been great,” he shares in his lilting northern-Irish accent.

“And there’s a good banter with the Australian folks – you get our jokes and our accents, so that helps,” he says with a laugh.

“We’ve seen a lot of people make decisions for Jesus – about 85 people so far.” – Gareth Gilkeson

The band – whose folky hits include Counting Every Blessing and My Lighthouse – is on its way to its fifth sell-out Aussie concert, in Newcastle on February 18. After that, there’s one more concert in Brisbane on February 20 (also sold out) before the band heads to the United States and then on to Europe, winding up back home in Ireland in October. (Before Australia, they kicked off with three concerts in New Zealand and one in the Philippines.)

The tour – dubbed the Revival Anthem World Tour – is, so far, living up to its name.

“We’ve seen a lot of people make decisions for Jesus – about 85 people so far in the four shows we’ve done in Australia,” says Gilkeson.

“For us, that’s a huge part of the night. It’s called the Revival Anthem tour, and revival is not just something we talk about, but it’s literally seeing people come from death to life, being revived.”

“We’re really trying to convey to our audience that this really makes a tangible difference to the entire community.” – Gareth Gilkeson

As well as their passion to see souls saved, Rend Collective is also spreading another important message. The band members are ambassadors for World Vision’s unique new child sponsorship program, Chosen – in which the child chooses their sponsor instead of the other way round (see Gilkeson’s reflection on Chosen below). And so, at their concerts Rend Collective are urging people to consider the difference they can make, not only in the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children but in whole communities.

“You can get numb to the whole idea of poverty. We may give money to a charity or things like that, but the whole aspect of that can become a little old because we’ve been so saturated,” says Gilkeson.

“We’re really trying to convey to our audience that this really makes a tangible difference to the entire community. It’s not as just about a child, but it’s also by creating an infrastructure for that child to have somewhere to go after school.”

On top of this campaigning, and in the midst of the tour, Rend Collective is also releasing a brand new album on March 27, titled Choose to Worship. Gilkeson explains the theme that inspired the album, including the newly released single from it, Sing it from the Shackles.

“We don’t always necessarily feel like worshipping, but God is always worth worshiping no matter what the circumstance.

“Sometimes when we feel like we’re in shackles or going through a dark season or a traumatic time of loss, or if we’re just numb and bored, this idea of raising our praises in those circumstances, not only because God’s worth it but also because that’s where we connect with him and where we find our joy and life.

“We don’t always necessarily feel like worshipping, but God is always worth worshiping no matter what the circumstance.” – Gareth Gilkeson

“That’s a huge part of our message. We lead worship professionally a-hundred-and-something times a year. So it’s not every night we walk out on stage and we feel like it. We know that there’s a lot of people who are coming to church or coming to one of our worship nights who have similar experiences.

“Maybe they don’t feel like it. Maybe they feel like God let them down or disappointed them or they’re struggling with doubt or some sin in their life. But whenever we come into the presence of God and we sing songs that say, hey, even in dark and dingy places where I feel like I have shackles on me, I’m going to lift up God’s praises, that’s going to change things.”

Below is a story supplied by World Vision Australia, written by Rend Collective band leader Gareth Gilkeson. Here he opens up about being “chosen” during a 2019 visit to Honduras in Central America, where more than 66 per cent of the population live in poverty.

The Chosen Ones

I’m not a sentimental guy. That’s 100 per cent true.

Except I 100 per cent cried when I participated in the Honduras choosing party.

Late last year I travelled to Central America with World Vision Australia, as part of Rend Collective’s partnership in their new child sponsorship program, Chosen.

I met Honduran leaders and discussed the issues that their community were struggling with – drought, land rights, poverty and exploitation.

One of the big issues I learnt about was the abuse and exploitation of people already impacted by poverty.

This was the case in the first community we visited.

Wealthy landowners rented land to struggling farmers. If the farmers had a bad year, they still had to pay the full rate. If they had a good year, the price paid by the wholesaler did little to alleviate their poverty.

There was exploitation at every turn. It made me so mad.

As an Irishman, there is something in me that really connects with that sense of being the underdog and being abused or used by a bigger person.

Despite all the problems, there were good news stories too.

A functional irrigation system meant their harvest had risen from a hundred tomatoes two years ago to a crop of thousands now.

World Vision had worked with the second community we visited for 10 years. The story of this community was vastly different.

A functional irrigation system meant their harvest had risen from a hundred tomatoes two years ago to a crop of thousands now.

These farmers had been connected with an international supermarket chain so they could get a fair price and scale up. This sort of success meant more local jobs.

It wasn’t just adults’ lives that were changing for the better – children always benefit from their parents’ windfalls. These children weren’t looking at the older people and thinking, “there’s no hope”.

For me, these experiences felt like the real practical love of God.

It’s one thing to know child sponsorship money helps the whole community. It’s another thing to see it in practice.

World Vision’s Chosen program is unique as it flips the script on traditional models of child sponsorship – instead of sponsors choosing their children from a selection of pictures, the children will choose their sponsor.

Chosen resonates with me. People experiencing poverty are equals, fellow humans who have just been dealt a different hand to me. They should not be pitied or helped but empowered and supported.

People experiencing poverty are equals, fellow humans who have just been dealt a different hand to me.

In an environment when so much is taken from children – even down to the ability to make decisions – they are restored the basic right of choice.

It was so moving to see them walk into the room and observe who they connected with.

Suddenly it’s like, “Wow, somebody has decided that I’m important enough to choose!” It’s great to see the kids go in and look up at the pictures.

The Chosen party was a reality check for my ego. I openly confess I was in the last five to be chosen!

Different members of the band responded to the Chosen party in different ways.

They are restored the basic right of choice.

Our guitarist, Patrick Thomas, and his wife were the first to be chosen. They caught the emotion of it.

Patrick kicked the soccer ball with his new sponsor children. The ceremony carried further weight for those like him and his wife, who are yet to have children of their own.

I know it’s a simple idea of flipping it round – so that instead of us choosing kids, they choose us – but it’s important.

Then, it doesn’t feel like we’re just taking pity on people, but it feels like we’re all human beings on the same level, just trying to display the love of God to each other.

World Vision Australia’s Chosen child sponsorship program will be launched in the next few months. For more information or to sign up now, visit worldvision.com.au/chosen/event.

 

 

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