Glenn Packiam was an original member of the Desperation Band. He then moved from being a worship leader to being a pastor, which led to his exploration of the Anglican worship tradition. The Anglican Mission in the Americas then ordained Packiam to the priesthood. His commission was to continue working in the nondenominational church. He continues to work in blending the old forms of worship with contemporary models.
This work led him to a dual project. The first part is the creation of his album, the Mystery of Faith, the subject of this review. The second part is the book with a similar name, Discover the Mystery of Faith.
The music of the album is standard fare. The common joke about worship music is that all major worship leaders owe their influence to Coldplay and U2. And that’s a fair assessment of the musical qualities of The Mystery of Faith. Piano dominates here, with dollops of electric guitars, strings, and drums mixed in to complete the recipe. There’s even a stray banjo here and there.
But the focus of the album isn’t about the musicality–which is an odd statement to make about music. But with all music created for group worship, the music should be accessible for the congregation. Simplicity is a plus. There are some bands that are creating challenging worship music The Digital Age is a great example. But simplicity is an integral part of The Mystery of Faith’s experience.
The standout feature of the album is the richness in the theology that it addresses. A lot of praise music presents a picture of the glorious nature of Christ. The album does have that and does an admirable job of expressing it.
But it goes a step further, addressing the fact that we’re all sinners. On example of this is the second track: “For the Life of the World.” In our comme si comme ça approach to modern worship, it’s easier to think “Jesus, only Jesus.” The sinfulness of humanity isn’t something that we like to dwell on. So it’s important that the second song addresses this in such a direct manner.
Halfway through the album, “Prayer of Confession” is another song that reminds us of our need for the healing power of Christ. These woeful yet meditative words, taken from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, remind us how much we have to rely on God’s mercy. “Have mercy, have mercy on us.”
What’s amazing that the song shifts perspective. Rather than being humanity’s view, the end of the song is a reminder from God that “You have been forgiven.”
Now, it may sound like the whole album is a downer. This would be a disservice to it though. A great example is “The Lord Be With You.” A full choir joins Packiam an awesome, upbeat call-and-response. The musicians and the listener remember that God is always with us. The music, which feels restrained throughout the album, gets to cut loose.
The penultimate track, “Forgiven Forever,” is a beautiful waltz. Excellent finger-style guitar work anchors down the musical accompaniment. The song’s lyrics lay out the need we have for Christ in a way that’s convicting and wonderful at the same time. Then it answers with the knowledge that our God forgives our sins forever.
All, in all, The Mystery of Faith is an album that gets richer with many listens. It’s an album worth playing all the way through. This isn’t an album of aggregated songs and a few singles. It’s an expression of faith that helps build up the listener and tie them into both the past and the present.