Last Friday afternoon, some friends and I drove over to Memphis for a Sara Groves concert. I think it was the third time I’ve seen her play, not counting the times she has played for Andrew Peterson’s Christmas show at the Ryman, or the couple showcases I caught last month during GMA week. She was playing at Hope Presbyterian, just outside of Memphis, for the opening concert in their summer concert series, along with another artist, and played for almost 90 minutes.
Bruce Carroll, who recorded eight projects on Word Records during the 80’s and 90’s and has won multiple Dove and Grammy awards, is the “Director of Arts and Worship” there now, and he talked about Compassion International and their child sponsorship program for a couple minutes before the intermission. Sara played a good mix of songs from her albums, including one from her under-appreciated side project of songs for parents, Songs from a Station Wagon, that I had played for my friends on the drive over, and her current radio single, “It Might Be Hope,” my favorite song from her newest album, Tell Me What You Know.
The line that jumped out at me this time, and that has stayed with me, is from the title song of her second album, Conversations: “The only thing that isn’t meaningless to me is Jesus Christ and the ways He sets me free.”* Growing up in church, the theme that Christ had set us free was constantly driven home (what we’d been saved from, never what we’d been saved for), but not, that I remember, the ways that Christ sets us free, in little and big ways every day. Listening to Sara sing that, I was drawn anew into thankfulness for the freedom that redemption brings and for the accomplished and yet ongoing work of Christ in my life.
This week, Sara headed into a studio here in Nashville with producer Ben Shive (Andrew Peterson’s piano player/producer and newest member of the Square Peg Alliance), to lay down the tracks for her first Christmas record, due out later this year. Ben told me yesterday that some of the songs they’ll be recording are new settings that Sara has written of traditional Christmas carols. I love her setting of “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” (He’s Always Been Faithful), so I’m looking forward to hearing what she comes up with.
*I just listened to the album version of “Conversations”, and Sara does sing “the way He set me free” there, not “the ways He sets me free,” which is what I heard at the concert. So I’m assuming that, in the eight years since she recorded that, she has broadened the meaning of that line.