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The Porter’s Gate Hopes to Bridge Gap Between Mental Health and Faith With New Album

The workshop inspired Maher to write the anthem “Christ Is Lower Still,” the first track on the album. Maher told RNS the song is about a savior who doesn’t leave his humanity at the grave, but who intimately understands the reality of human suffering, even in his risen form: “He rose from the grave body, mind and spirit, and never took the scars off his hands.”

Wardell told RNS that the musicians collectively wrote around 100 songs, in full or in part, inspired by the retreat. Then, in the weeks after, the musicians continued to collaborate with the mental health experts at Sanctuary to polish lyrics and narrow down the final song selections for the album. The experts functioned as a theological sounding board, pointing out songs and phrases that might not be empowering for someone experiencing a mental health crisis.

The resulting 12 songs are general enough that one might not assume they are about mental health without the added context. But that design was intentional. Each song could fit easily into a church service, while “subversively” integrating conversations about mental health into worship, according to Wardell. The album is also meant as a compendium to The Sanctuary Course, a soundtrack that might lend emotional weight to the discussions.

Regardless of where it’s played, the album repeats a resounding message on nearly every track: God’s love is unconditional, and God is present even in suffering. And that’s a message Whitehead says the church — with its impulse to outsource mental health support or to tie up every testimony with a tidy, triumphant bow — desperately needs.

Attendees of the writing retreat sit on the porch one evening in western Canada during the group’s trip to write the new album “Sanctuary Songs.” Photo courtesy of The Porter’s Gate

“That initial response that you give to someone can dictate whether they can recover well in the church, or whether they feel like: I need to bury this stuff and not talk about it,” said Whitehead. “And of course, when we bury this stuff, when we isolate ourselves, that’s when the most harm can happen.”

Swinton told RNS via email he believes music can articulate elements of the human experience often suppressed or compartmentalized, and he hopes this album will do just that.

“Our highs, our lows, our uncertainties, are captured in the beauty of melody, and the deep power of lament,” Swinton wrote. “I very much hope that this album will help people to feel and sing out their mental health challenges in ways that bring freedom, hope and deep connection with themselves, with God and with those around them.”

This article originally appeared here.