On a February evening in 1999, over 1200 students gathered in a 1950’s auditorium, with sketchy air-conditioning to sing, pray, clap, listen, share – worship! Starting in 1994, Grace Bible study became a fixture for many students (and myself) every Thursday night (and changed to Tuesdays on 9/11/01). When it was launched, I’m not sure that any of us would understand, or comprehend the impact that it would have on our lives….and the lives of so many students.
Worship was always one of the key ingredients along with great teaching over the years from Steve Hardin, Matt Chandler and Luke Norsworthy. I have so many amazing memories over the years of our worship time – of students transparently worshiping before their creator.
In early ’99 we decided to attempt to capture the sweet experiences that we were having week after week at Grace. So we hired an engineer to bring his ‘good mics’ and we practiced really hard for the service. Looking back we were crazy. We pressed record and then just captured the night – not on digital, but on good ‘ol 24 track analog!
Years later – I now know there are easier and more ‘professional’ ways to record a worship night. But we were young, dumb, and dreamy back then – and all we wanted to do was to try to get a picture of the sweet experience that we all were having at Grace.
So later in 1999, Journey to the Well was released. When I listen to it now, I hear countless imperfections – how we tried to record a record without a click track for all the musicians to play together – what were we thinking? I hear all the wrong notes I sang. I hear the little attempts we made to improve the mistakes that happened. Inspite of all of that, more importnatly I hear 1200+ students singing their hearts out. I hear the presence of our Lord in their midst. I hear and remember the sweetness of that moment – and many other moments like it.
Strangely, of all the records that I did, I’ve never had as many requests for an album like I have over the years for this one. It was one of most successful projects we released- and I think its because we all felt the presence of the Lord that night.
My pride has kept me from releasing this project on iTunes for years (and the fact that I didn’t have any CDs left and I don’t know where the Masters are). But over Christmas while cleaning out the attic, I found one in an old box. This project is far from perfect. Over the years, I’ve been jaded by the ability to digitally improve our recordings and began to feel it a requirement. But there is something very pure and innocent about recording a moment in time – and enjoying it.
So for all of us who lost, misplaced, or threw away our Journey CD – here it is again: Journey to the Well
12 Years later – I continue to be thankful for all the wonderful people involved in that night – many who have gone on to serve on amazing platforms – Steve Hardin, Matt Chandler, Jeremy Kirles, Caleb Lain, Becky Middleton, Julie Nance Benson, Crista Schwalk Bailey, Billy Bob White, Joseph Bailey, Terrance Jennings, Mike Milford, Wes Martin, Matt Wilks, Luke Ayres, Matt McCoy, Rob Albert, and Michael Henry Martin – Thank you for serving!!
So for all of us who remember the sweet moments in that strange looking building in Abilene – Journey to the Well will be a reminder of the greatness of our God – and the incredible privilege it was for us all to be involved in His work. Maybe one day a great reunion will happen that will include us all back at University Baptist Church – but if not in Abilene, Heaven will certainly have better air conditioning.