“Lins, you just have to hear this band – they’re the best worship band I’ve ever heard in my life!”
I’ve learned, over the couple of decades that I’ve known and worked with Tim Fellows, that, due to his natural positivity and enthusiasm, statements like these aren’t always massively reliable. Since I met Tim in my late teens, he must have handed me at least 30 books that were all, in their own way, the ‘best books he’s ever read’, alongside countless worship songs to which he also gave the same impressive label. It’s now a running joke within the Love Black Country team.
So, when he eagerly introduced me to the sound of his latest favourite worship band, Walsall’s Room 1 Project, I admit that my scepticism kicked in.
The first time I saw them lead worship myself was at a Next Gen Equip Night in June 2019, where an unassuming group of 4 members of the band lead those present in a time of beautiful, often spontaneous, musical worship. After 5 minutes in their presence, I figured that Tim might be on to something with his glowing recommendation and I knew I had to find out more.
And that’s how I end up in Ben and Katy Dean’s back garden in Rushall, on a sunny evening in July, surrounded by 5 members of the “hub” of Room 1 Project’s 16-strong team. As we sit and talk, I ask them to tell me their story.
In 2011, a group of young adults, who were volunteering as members of the worship team at Walsall Community Church, decided they’d rather just worship than simply rehearse. Making the most of their time in local rehearsal studios, they started to invite fellow musicians and singers from other Walsall churches to join them. Pretty soon, a group 15-20 strong in size, from 7-8 churches from across the borough, were meeting regularly with only one agenda item: to worship God together.
Without realising it, they were quickly becoming a tight team, adept at leading others in ‘spontaneous worship’, whereby no lyrics or chords are practised before-hand and the worship created comes from where the Holy Spirit leads. It wasn’t long before invitations came for them to help lead worship at events, camps and festivals all over the country, and many original worship songs were written as an overflow of their times worshipping together.
I’ve personally sung in worship teams for over 20 years, but the thought of leading hundreds of people in spontaneous worship still fills me with trepidation. The pressure of relating to God whilst also being mindful of the crowd of people wanting me to take them with me has always been a balance I’ve found it hard to strike. I ask the band how they handle it.
“I think, whatever the size of the platform, our approach is the same,” explains bassist Richard Rossington. “We go there to worship God and the congregation will follow if they want to. Our job is to simply invite others to join in with what we’re doing.”
“We make sure we remind each other that we’re just our Father’s kids, turning up in His lounge to be with Him,” adds Ben Dean, founding member of the group.
This approach has become particularly helpful at the band’s numerous visits to David’s Tent, a 72-hour non-stop worship event held every August in Sussex which attracts over 4000 people.
Tapestry of UK worship
Having now written and produced 2 albums of their own as well as supporting several members of the band to release solo projects, Room 1 Project are making a distinctive mark on the UK worship scene.
“Worship is important for the Body of Christ in remembering who we are in God,” says Ben. “We know that we’re part of a tapestry of worship music in the UK currently on the rise.”
It’s interesting to hear Ben’s thoughts on where British worship music sits within the UK church. With so many Australasian and American songs dominating the set lists of Sunday services across the country, Room 1 Project believe they have a part to play in the UK worship scene.
“It’s time for the UK church rise up and sings songs that speak prophetically into our nation,” explains Ben. “We believe we’re part of a growing voice in the UK worship scene exploring what God is saying to the UK church in 2020 and beyond.”
Although the band clearly have an eye on the nation, they’re still very much grounded locally. Whilst many of the band’s 16-strong membership live all over the country, the “hub” members all live in Walsall and work in the Midlands. They regularly lead worship at Love Walsall events which gather Christians from all denominations from across the borough of Walsall and clearly have a passion for their town.
“Walsall is a forgotten town,” explains Joe Wait, the band’s keyboardist. “Not much is expected of Walsall and our desire is to see it transformed.”
When I ask how a worship team can help to transform a borough, Ben’s answer is immediate.
“Matt Redman always says that worship fuels the fire of mission and he’s right. When we worship, we remember who we are in God and all that He can do.”
Ben’s final words remind me of a prophetic word given over our region around 10 years ago. It spoke of something being released from heaven that would create a sound across the Black Country and beyond. Room 1 Project are indeed part of a tapestry of worship rising not only across the nation but also within our area with a voice that speaks well beyond our region. It is a voice that reminds us that God is powerful, that God is good, and that God is able to do immeasurably above and beyond what we can ask or imagine. As we worship the Lord, we are reminded of all that He is capable of and focussing on Him gives us incredible hope that our area can indeed be transformed because nothing is impossible for Him.
Room 1 Project are keen to connect with and support local churches. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to make a booking enquiry. To listen to Room 1 Project’s latest album, please visit their website where you’ll find links to the album on Spotify and Apple Music. You can also check them out on YouTube here. You can catch them in action at this years David’s Tent Festival on 23-26th August 2019.