With auditoriums laid bare, pews empty and concert venues deserted, worship artists across the globe are employing creative methods to help others lift up their praises to God. One of the groups profoundly affected by the blanket ban on mass gatherings are Irish folk-rockers Rend Collective, who were recently forced to pull the plug on their entire, 35-date US tour.
Premier caught up with Rend's guitarist and founding member, Patrick Thompson, to talk about the band's new record Choose to Worship, and hear how they navigating this strange season of social isolation.
Despite dealing with the uncertainty of having no shows scheduled for the immediate future, Thompson said he was actually finding it distinctly refreshing to strip everything back and return to the basics of sung worship.
"You know... sound, lights, and confetti canons and panda masks -- that's not worship," he said. "That's stuff we use to create an atmosphere of fun... but we can still lead people in worship in a different way. It has actually been quite refreshing... to not be relying on the lights and the special effects to lead worship for us. It's quite nice to have all that stripped away."
Unable to take their energetic worship nights to sell-out arenas, Rend has brought things back to the living room. Their "socially distant worship club" -- which involved an extended time of worship plus a short talk -- is now airing regularly across their social media channels. Wonderfully, the events appear to be drawing a sizeable audience.
Thompson explained: "It's just been stripped back to the fundamentals. That's what we've seen people really connect with... these live sessions on Instagram Live and Facebook... those have been the most-viewed things we've ever done; ten-fold over anything else.
"People are anxious, people are kind of turned upside down right now, and people are trying to find that thing that is their solid ground. Obviously, for people who have a faith, that's God. They are looking for that opportunity to worship."
The sessions originally involved the band gathering together in a front room (all the while adhering to distancing rules, of course). Now, with the isolation guidelines being rolled out across the US and the UK, the group is relying on technology in order to keep the worship sessions going.
"It looked different a couple of weeks ago when we were able to gather in one room and stream it live. Chris would lead some songs, and Gareth would bring a message," Thompson explained. "That's now changed. But with technology, you can Instagram Live… Chris can sing then tag Gareth in for the talks."
He continued: "Another thing that we've been doing is trying to offer encouragement to people through devotionals going out in our emails. I think that has been pretty well-received, too.
"I'm sure a lot of people are the same as me... if I have a spare moment at the minute, I'm on the news reading what's going on. That feeds anxiety, stress, uncertainty and fear.
"I think a lot of people are trying to find some element of truth in the whole thing, rather than just stressing about everything. People want to build a part of the day where they are getting themselves encouraged. We are just trying to meet those needs."
Rend Collective released its latest album, Choose to Worship, on Friday -- a record that Thompson said was "poignant" for such a time as this.
"I hope it resonates with people," he said. "A lot of what the album says is that… whenever things are going down the tubes, whenever life is really difficult... it's really important to choose to worship because God is still God regardless of what's happening to us. He is still worthy of worship."
Thompson said that when the band picked a release date, they had no idea it would be "smack bang in the middle of this crazy time in the century." In fact, many of the songs on the record happen to be incredibly apt considering the current situation. Patrick referenced the title track of the album, ‘Choose to worship’ which goes:
"When the enemy says I'm done, I choose to worship. When my world comes crashing down, I choose to worship."
Reflecting on the power of praise at such a scary time, Thompson said he believes Christians are "desperate to cling on to the thing in their lives that is solid and on firm ground.”
"It would be cool to see worship become that for people," he added.
As Christians are unable to gather together for corporate worship, potentially for several months, Thompon urged that believers may need to "figure out how to be the hands and feet of Jesus" during such a disconnected time.
The first thing for us to remember, he said, is that God does not change, even in the midst of a global crisis.
"In a time of real uncertainty, it is really important to remember that God is still good," Thompson declared. "That's the thing that we know is not going to change throughout this."
"Surely His goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives," the guitarist added, quoting Psalm 23. "That's a guarantee."
"That's what we're holding on to."
Rend Collective's new album Choose to Worship is available on all platforms now.