Meet Rend Collective The Campfire Enthusiasts

Posted by James Warwood  ·  Be the first to comment

Many have fallen in love with Rend Collective’s enchanting sound and infectious style, none more than American author and pastor Francis Chan:

“I LOVE their music, but I was even more impressed with their passion for Christ. It’s nice to see a talented young band that desires Jesus far more than they desire fame, money or anything else.”

Rend Collective Experiment

From left to right: Chris Llewellyn, Ally Gikeson, Gareth Gikeson, Patrick Thompson, Will Heron

Their music has spread like an untameable wild fire. But every fire has to be ignited. So how was this movement sparked, where has it spread to and is this the future of church worship?

More ‘Church Family’ Than ‘Band’

The international success story begins in Bangor, Northern Ireland. Back in 2001 a group of twenty-somethings were praying and seeking together as friends for an authentic outworking of their faith. All of a sudden, their numbers grew from 15 to 100 as they met together in pubs and other organic environments making music and community.

It took the family eight years to be released into mainstream Christian retail, with their homemade album ‘Organic Family Hymnal’. The album was a re-recorded mash-up of two EP’s which were independently released. Deciding that the normal recording route – the studio polished and pruned album route – wasn’t the group’s style, Gareth Gilkeson tells an amusing story about the albums creation:

“There is a lovely chap called Andrew, and I rang him up one day and said, ‘Hello, I’d like to record in your castle [Castlewellan Castle, near the Mourne Mountains], when is it free?’ He said, ‘It’s free these dates.’ And I said, ‘Great’. So he was brilliant, they looked after us really well and they let us go wild.”

Why Are They Called ‘Rend Collective Experiment’?

‘Rend’ is a clever reference to scripture, revealing the groups pure intentions.

“Rend your hearts and not your garments” – Joel 2: 13.

The Old Testament verb – to rend – referred to an outward expression of extraordinary uncontrollable emotion, where someone would show their emotion through ripping their clothes from their body. Like when Josephs brothers presented their father with a coat covered in blood, Jacob tore his clothes in mourning.

The passage in Joel is encouraging the nation of Israel to stop putting on a show and come before God in a real and authentic way. Their music is an expression of faith, a response of rending their hearts to God as their worship. The verb also appears in Isaiah:

“Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down” – Isaiah 64:1.

This time it points to God ripping open the heavens to reach into our earthly realm, a spiritual connection between us and our Creator. A wonderful image of authentic worship, don’t you think?

The ‘collective’ and ‘experiment’ parts are pretty self explanatory. ‘Collective’ – because no one is the leader, describing themselves on their website as ‘an eclectic collective of multi-instrumentalists’ who have ‘an inherent desire for something spiritually substantive in our increasingly artificial world’. ‘Experiment’ – because nobody really knows what they’re doing, apart from experimenting with life and faith.

More ‘Campfire’ Than ‘Mega Church’

Impressively, the collective have stayed true to their roots while the Christian music scene threw its knickers on the stage. They carried on creating community, writing songs that express the journey they were on and recorded their next album – ‘Handmade Worship By Handmade People’ – in Gareth & Ally Gilkeson’s living room.

Over the past couple of years, they’ve spent many weeks touring America as the support act to an impressive list of Christian bands, including Chris Tomlin, MercyMe, Tenth Avenue North and Lecrae. Of course, the collective have played tug of war with the nature of the music industry – the creation of mega-stars through marketing. But they seem to have settled into something they have called – ‘Campfire Worship’.

“The beauty of church is that it champions unity while adamantly rejecting uniformity. While the ‘megachurch’ models itself on the picture of God in his might, glory and holiness, the campfire model tries to reflect God in his incarnate form: something human, touchable, and humbly beautiful.”

Their latest creation – a live album called ‘Campfire’ – is an invitation into their collective; to join their band around the flames and share the experience for yourself.

And for the keen fire starters amongst you, they’ve produced a free resource encouraging the ‘campfire model’ they’ve pioneered for over 10 years to spread across the world. It includes all the chord sheets, complete with lyrics, and some inspiration to spark the worship leader inside you. Available from their official website, this resource certainly got my creative juices flowing, envisioning an authentic expression of worship in my community (and while you’re there, click on the little paper airplane at the feet of the mandolin player and see what happens).

A Striking Similarity...

This all sounds very familiar to me: home-grown worship, five passionate musicians, a massive breakthrough in the US, touring with the biggest American bands & artists… where have I seen this before...


And like the internationally renowned band they became, spreading a passion for God and worship, I have no doubt that this fresh movement for authentic ‘rendful’ worship will do so all over again (and possibly even exceed their predecessors).

22nd March

March 22nd, 2013 - Posted & Written by James Warwood

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