By Dawn Faith
For singer-songwriter Dawn Faith, writing the worship anthem for the Renew Our World campaign became a transformative experience. Here, she honestly shares her story of creating a song that shaped her life, and the hopes she holds for how it will shape others.
Even though I’d been born and raised in social justice, I hadn’t really been involved in climate change or any issues of the environment. Those at Renew Our World really wanted this as the key focus of the song. But for me, this was really hard. Honestly!
I had always thought: “God made the planet for me, and it’s mine. So I can just do whatever I want.” I never felt a sense of responsibility towards the earth. I never felt that looking after it could be a form of worship. I had no sense of gratitude to God for giving me this incredible, beautiful, intricate little ball that just randomly hangs in the middle of the universe.
So, I first had to spend a lot of time reading up on what was going on around me. And that was quite overwhelming. And scary. It took me to the far end. I thought maybe we should just go around just saying to one another, “I’m sorry” all the time. Because we screw up so much. So it started out as a really apologetic song.
Then, I went to the other side and explored the beauty of what creation is supposed to look like. I watched a lot of Discovery Channel.
And then I went to Scripture. And I read about the different ways the earth is referred to in the Bible. About its intricate connectedness to God. How everything worships him. How everything is about him, everything is for him, everything is around him and with him.
All these different emotions taught me how to respond in song.
As we worship our Creator, we join in God’s mission to renew all of creation. God calls us to put justice at the heart of our worship.
You don’t put out a piece of art, a piece of music and not live differently. This song forced me to take stock of my own life at home. Do I know where I get my clothes and where they are made? What did it cost the planet to get them to me? Do I need to have beef every night? What’s the consequences of having beef? And most recently, I’ve started my own small garden and I’m trying to be self-sufficient. And I’m teaching my son to be responsible for watering, and toknow where the water comes from, and that everything is connected.
You know, the church has to change its idea of what worship is in order for us to embrace worshiping him in different ways. We need to transform and diversify it. We want songs that are about exaltation, adoration, and prayer. And also, about justice. But, it feels awkward to sing about climate change in church when we’re not talking about justice in church. If we were, there would be more songs about justice, about refugees, about the marginalised.
I had to learn a new language to write this song. How else could I write about how the trees are not doing so great, and the ice is melting – and find a rhyme and melody for that? I had to find a melody that wasn’t ‘black’, and it wasn’t ‘white’. Music has been segregated, you know. So I had to find a melody that would cross culture, colour, genre.
I started writing this song in Johannesburg on my own. Then, I worked it up with the song’s producer, Gabriel Wilson, and Viv Benjamin, coordinator of Renew Our World, and we looked to the Scriptures. We would write lyrics, and then check whether it was Biblical. We had heated arguments about the interpretations and how we understood the bible. Gabe was amazing. Not only is he a great artist and musician and producer, he’s a passionate lover of Christ.
With the drums, I wanted it to sound like marching, like an army of Christians coming up to God and saying: I know we stuffed it up. We can see the forests groaning in need of resurrection, we can see the waters rising, and sometimes we are so lost we don’t know which way we’re going. We want God to bring us back and show us that original picture of Eden. To remind us of His blueprint, what He originally wanted. We go back to the architect who drew the plans that were supposed to sustain us for all eternity, and we ask to speak our future into being, as he did in the beginning. And this time, to do it with us.
This song is one of the hardest songs I’ve had to write. It’s an offering, a prayer. My prayer.
Raising your voice in song is a powerful act of worship. It lifts up to God the concerns of our heart, transforms our own hearts and minds to be more like Christ, and inspires us to deepen our love and concern for our neighbours, especially those suffering poverty and environmental disasters in the changing climate. As we worship our Creator, we join in God’s mission to renew all of creation. God calls us to put justice at the heart of our worship.
‘Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!’ (Amos 5:23-24).
Dawn Faith is a recording artist, speaker, author, social activist and the host of her own TV show “Deep & Meaningful”. She’s also a former TEAR employee, as part of our education team. She uses her music, faith and extraordinary passion for justice to pursue change in this world. Dawn lives in Johannesburg with her husband Nick and their young son.