“What a friend we have in Jesus.” We sing those words, and we take comfort in our personal relationship with the Maker, but just a moment’s pondering reveals our inadequacy. We do not rate such access. We have never before known a friend so giving, so interested, so committed. We can only fail in our half of the relationship, but somehow that’s okay.
This grand friendship is the subject of Friend Forever, the fourth release from Mission House. Members of the Rabbit Room community are likely familiar with both Jess Ray and Taylor Leonhardt as beloved singer-songwriters. Jess can be heard on the 2019 Behold the Lamb of God reissue, and Taylor was the featured musical guest at Hutchmoot 2022. It’s possible, though, that many have missed the pair’s convergence as a folk worship duo called Mission House. If that’s the case, Friend Forever serves as a great introduction. The project’s nine songs include fresh versions of band favorites—both solo offerings and revisited Mission House songs—along with hymns, a folk song, and a Delirious? cover that lends the album its title.
These are technically studio tracks, though they were recorded live at a friend’s home. They retain the spontaneity and connection of a live performance but are rendered with a warmth and intimacy that’s often difficult to capture with a concert recording. The songs are quiet and peaceful, and it is apparent from the opening track, “Place to Land,” that this is comfort-bringing music. That’s not to say it is lightweight or that it lacks depth. Instead, the lyrics often feel hard-won, like the gentle compression of a pillow under a weary head. “I need a peaceful pasture / I need a steady hand / You are the one I’m after / You are my place to land.” What a friend we have, indeed.
Production is delicate and understated, taking a back seat to the meaningful words and expressive vocals. In this setting, the bridge to “Behold” arrives with reassuring confidence: “We’ve been struck down, we’re not destroyed / We’ve sown in tears, we’ll reap in joy.” This proclamation is not in-your-face but matter-of-fact, like a faith that is quiet and wise and not boisterous.
Similarly, “Take My Life” is no empty platitude here. It carries the earnestness and desperation necessary to lead one to real surrender, and it demonstrates the kindred nature of brokenness and worship.
We are often struck paralyzed by the paradox of our kindred Creator. We contemplate omnipotence and wrath, and we rightly tremble before such might. But the unique mystery of Christ is the coexistence of omnipotent wrath and omnipotent friendship. “Friend Forever” is a soothing balm for those who need a friend, and an opportunity to rest, ponder, and praise him.