Andy Baker is
Waking Up The Parishioners
Fifty percent of the time when I hand one of the Waking Up The Parishioners CDs to someone, they comment on the album name. Some people are unfamiliar with the Olde English word which implies someone is an inhabitant of the particular church parish and that they might attend church on a regular basis. It’s a very British word and I have no idea whether other countries divide themselves up into regional diocese and local parishes.
Nevertheless, there are a number of reasons why I decided to name the album so.
The first church I attended was All Saints Parish Church in Ecclesall. As a young boy growing up in Sheffield, my parents encouraged me and my sister to attend Sunday school. Whilst I made a few friends with other youngsters, I wasn’t overly excited to attend church and when the opportunity to play Sunday league football came along I grabbed it with both hands… well both feet I guess!
I started to really grow in my faith by the time I turned 12. My sister Mandy (yes, we are Mandy and Andy) was growing in her faith and – as a teenager – was evangelising anyone and everyone who cared to listen. She took me along to a Delirious? concert in the summer of 1996 and there ‘I Found Jesus’, as the song and story goes.
Something powerful happened that night as I joined in spontaneous singing: I felt spiritually awakened.
From then on, I started attending my local parish church regularly and – through the music group I’d been invited to join (there’s another story about this I’ll save for another time) – I met a very cheeky 10-year-old drummer called Nick Noble. Even at a young age, his charm, charisma and glowing red hair set him apart from the crowd.
Nick had attended the event where I found Jesus and his sister, Amy, was BFF’s with my sister.
I invited Nick and Amy to sing on my first cassette tape on an upbeat song called Celebrate. (I must hasten to add the cassettes are no longer in print and I’m pleased to say nothing to my knowledge has been leaked onto the internet much to my relief. My voice hadn’t yet broken but I did manage to sell 100 copies of my first worship tape to raise money for my sister’s year out missions trip).
Fast forward a couple of years and I start my first band with Nick. He’d migrated from drums to lead guitar as it was much cooler and to be up-front than sat down at the back. Whilst he didn’t know what he was doing on guitar at the time, he blagged his way through and we played a couple of youth-club gigs to rapturous applause.
Several iterations later, we formed a band called Elevation which took us all around the UK working around school holidays, exams and lifts from parents. It was an amazing training ground for enthusiastic teenagers to learn about music, ministry, and mission. We would preach the gospel at events, breakdance and perform faith-filled pop songs to our peers and church youth groups.
A Nobel Story
Nick never lost his cheeky charm and went on to front the first band I managed called The Gentlemen. He would get applaud for just walking on stage, he was literally that good; a king of Freddie Mercury-esque showman confidence.
By this time he’d taken on the mantle of Nicholas and is now training to be a minister in Norway after marrying a beautiful Scandinavian girl whose name is so hard to pronounce I dare not write it out.
It was in the post-Elevation and pre-Gentlemen era that the parishioners were awoken in Ecclesall and I will disclose a matter that has remained secret and hidden for over 15 years; the repercussions of what I’m about to share could go as far as Lambert Palace.
Nicholas and I were volunteer youth leaders at All Saints Ecclesall. Thanks to a very special move of God and the enthusiastic and gifted Youth Minister Rev. Andy Rushworth, we had a very large congregation of young people. We worked with a large group of teenagers and students to make our very own Youth Ministry CD. The CD’s found their way into over 1000 homes and one place it should have not…!
Situated on the top of a hill, All Saints was a grand and very old building dating back to the 1600’s, however it had undergone an extensive reordering with comfy seats replacing pews, carpets and underfloor heating replacing cold stone and an automated CD of bells ringing replacing the need for the old skool approach to er… ringing bells.
The bells CD was kept in a locked cupboard next to the mixing desk as it would be a disaster if somehow the CD was switched and something other than traditional church bells blasted out from a loudspeaker in the belltower to the 10,000’s of nearby residents.
Somehow (cough cough Nick cough Noble cough) a CD switch took place one Sunday morning. Instead of the expected sounds of bells waking up the parish of Ecclesall it was yours truly courtesy of the new youth ministry album. Track 1, I Am Yours, at impressive volume joined the dawn chorus on a crisp Sunday morning to announce the 8 am Holy Communion service.
The inquisition that followed put poor Reverend Rushworth in a spot of bother. Whilst he did not know for sure who the culprit of the CD switch was, it was rumored that a lock of ginger hair was found at the scene of the crime. However, Nicholas never had to face the wrath of Roger the soundman or confess to his misgiving. (Perhaps now justice will be served?)
Besides this amusing story and a subtle nod to Bryan Adams Waking Up The Neighbours album, there is a deeper meaning for the chosen title of this project.
In the middle of 2017 I was extremely tired and heading into burn-out. I felt God encourage me to make changes and return to my roots of worship writing and worship leaders.
The truth is, I had become sidetracked with running a business and more comfortable with pushing other people forward with their ministries than exercising my own ministry gifts. I went through a season on God waking me up.
I woke up to the fact my diet was not good; I was tired and unhealthy.
I woke up to the fact I was a workaholic and wasn’t honouring my family.
I woke up to my need for support, prayer, and healing.
After a 6 month season of re-ordering my life, I felt challenged to wake up earlier each morning and spend time with God before the day starts.
The Homegrown Devotion
So, on January 1st 2018, I began a new morning devotion route…
I get my MIND in order by journaling my thoughts and feelings,
I get my HEART in order with a gratitude list thanking God for his blessings,
I open my EYES and EARS to what God wants to say to me through reading scripture,
Then I pick up an instrument and open my MOUTH in praise.
This morning routine led to me writing over 100 songs in 2018 and starting up Homegrown Worship, a movement now helping over 50 writers, artists, and church to develop, record and share new worship songs.
Whenever I visit churches I want to encourage people to allow God to awaken them. I believe that God is wanting to awaken the nations but it has to start with you and me.
Can we get out of bed a little earlier to pray?
Have we woken up to our need for His love and mercy?
Are we like the disciples in Matthew 26 who’ve fallen asleep when Jesus asked them to keep watch?
The Bible says that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. I hope that this collection of songs helps to fan the flame of faith in your heart and encourage you to follow Jesus and rise up the calling He has placed on your life.
“Awake, sleeper, And arise from the dead, And Christ will shine on you”