More Indie than Townend, folk based Godfrey Birtill is not your typical worship music superstar. With 11 CDs to his name his publicity describes him as ‘having a unique ability to bring together the prophetic, intercession and worship in a dynamic blend.’ That wasn’t written by anyone from Birtill’s home town – we don’t use fancy words like that where Godfrey comes from.
I know that because I lived in Godfrey’s home town of Chorley in Lancashire for 35 years.
About the time I went to live in the straight talking mill and market town, Godfrey was a young lad at a Methodist church and an altar boy at the Anglican church.
In a crisis of belief, Godfrey attributes his recommitment to the witness of a street preacher, though he describes his faith as still-born rather than born again.
Moving to Wales and then to Derby, with wife, Gill, and his stepson it was she that challenged him over some photos of joyous Spring Harvest worshippers: “Don’t you believe in this then?” After a troubled night, in which he envisioned himself dangling precariously from a fraying rope, he got himself a Good News Bible and read the words from Ecclesiastes: “Remember your creator before the silver cord is severed.”
Travelling Minstrel for God
Returning to Lancashire, he became involved in a Preston church’s worship band. It was here his gifts of folk singer/songwriter and worship leader were released in him and laid before God. Happier with his label of minstrel for God, he sees his role as similar to that of Charles Wesley who caught the essence of his brother, John Wesley’s, teaching and sermons re-presenting them as songs that register in the heart and soul.
Considered a bit out of step with mainstream worship music, Godfrey has worked with Navaho Indians and is well known for ‘Glory in the Pub’ taking unplugged worship into public houses around Sheffield and present home town, Lincoln.
You can’t play that kind of venue and rely on the electronic wizardry of your sound engineer; it’s just you and your guitar. There’s nowhere to hide and a Lancashire audience – even a Christian one, won’t be slow to let you know if you’re not up to it. They might not walk out, but they won’t part with hard earned brass for your next CD.
Playing in a Field of Grace
11 CDs on – proving his durability and appeal, his songs retain a strong folk feel but cover all the ground in between from prayerful reflection to full on blue grass, folk-rock and Celtic rock transformations of classic hymns in the Getty/Townend style. Folk is too narrow a definition for Godfrey’s creativity with plenty of variety on just about every disk.
On his latest album, Two Thousand Years Ago We Bled into One, the title track is gentle, sensitive and the words are clear and simple over the guitar and strings underscore.
“We are your children,” assures the chorus, “that is what we are.” While the orchestration becomes richer as the track progresses, it doesn’t overpower the word picture that surely defines what it means to know yourself a child of God: “playing in a field of grace.”
This song is likely to match the success and acclaim of Birtill’s Outrageous Grace (co-titled There’s a lot of pain – not your average worship song title) from his You’re Still God album. If you can catch him live around the country (and the US) then do, if you can’t watch the video get hold of his New CD; you won’t be disappointed.
April 5th, 2013 - Posted & Written by Les Ellison