Releasing a worship album is complicated, even in the best of times. Translating the experience of corporate worship to a whole different platform — for people to check out while riding the train, jogging, in the shower or whatever — is no mean feat. This has always been true, but it’s extra true in quarantine, when the corporate experience increasingly feels like an experience from a bygone era.
Mosaic MSC is making the best of it. Their new album HUMAN releases this Friday, May 15, and the worship band of LA’s Mosaic church is aware of the challenges and opportunities in front of them. With worship anthems like “Tremble” and “Never Let Me Down,” they’re no strangers to writing songs that strike a chord with a global church. And now, with HUMAN, they’re preparing another offering for a world on lockdown that is more aware of its need for hope and confidence than ever. RELEVANT talked to Mosaic MSC worship leader Mariah McManus and team member Carlos Pimentel about praising in the pandemic. (This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)
Let’s start with how you are doing, personally. Has this time been challenging or rewarding, or what?
CARLOS: Yes. [Laughter]
MARIAH: Yes, to all of it. I was asking myself this question today: “Am I OK? How am I doing?” And it’s so funny because I guess it’s been almost 50 days now, maybe, in LA? But it does feel like almost a day-to-day thing, or hour by hour. You’re asking “OK, am I doing good? How am I utilizing my time?”
It’s been a struggle. But I think in the last week, I’ve been excited to live the next day. I’m excited about life. I’m excited about writing music. I go to sleep and I just can’t wait for the next day to play my piano. It took many, many days and weeks to get to the point where I was excited about the next day because, for so long, I was like, “Oh, the next day is just another day of being home, just another day of tons of work,” especially with us working at church. It’s Zoom calls and checking in on people, and a lot of time on screens and a lot of time on our phones. It’s taken a while for me to get to that place.
CARLOS: It’s definitely interesting. I’m so grateful that I get to be part of a community and a church that has such incredible leaders. And Mariah’s famous dad, Erwin McManus, is lead pastor of our community. We meet with him once a week. We talk about the future, and what’s going on right now, and how can we move forward. It’s always very encouraging and challenging just to learn how to have a better perspective of what’s going on right now, and not get stuck in how we feel and the limitations of what we cannot do right now, but to start dreaming. This is the biggest opportunity that we have as a church. We have to do something with this.
On a day-to-day basis, it’s challenging. I love writing, and I’ve been trying to write music in Spanish for a long time because it’s what got me into music, and I stopped doing it for, I don’t know, probably the last two years. I haven’t been able to write until this thing hit us all and I finally made myself sit down behind a piano to find the right words to communicate what’s happening inside of me. I wrote two songs! I feel like, “OK, I’m the king of the world. I can do anything!”
How have you been dealing with releasing a worship album right now?
MARIAH: One thing my dad said to us in one of those staff meetings is, “It’s OK to grieve what you thought was going to happen.” The biggest thing that we’ve lost, I guess, from all of this is not being able to tour. But on the flip side, the way that we’ve been doing church has been pulling in so many more people than we’ve ever seen, ever. And for us, that’s why we do this, is to build our church and to build the story of Jesus and Los Angeles in the world.
So, yes, it’s a bummer. We all love touring. We all love being able to celebrate together. But I think that the difference in perspective has really changed the way we create. There’s no box anymore. There’s nothing to look at that’s been done in this situation before. We get to be part of what it looks like in the future, to create under these circumstances. I think it’s a unique gift to be able to be a part of the Church right now because so many people are receptive to the story of Jesus in this time.
Calling the album HUMAN feels like sort of a flex. It’s a different sort of title for a worship album.
CARLOS: So that was the first word that came to our mind. We started talking about, “Hey, we want to make something that feels human. It has that texture of normal people doing music and communicating something. I think this is connected to who we are as a Church. We want the way that we talk about Jesus and God and worship to be in a way that relates to most people.
I feel like, so many times, as worship leaders and Christian people, we let our language betray us. We talk in a way that people don’t understand. If you listen to worship music, it’s a reality. So many times, there are songs that we hear at church from other amazing leaders, that we’re like, “OK, we love this song, but we cannot sing this because it makes no sense,” you know?
So when we are writing, we’re like, “We want to make sure that my friends, my neighbors who don’t know Jesus yet that I’m just getting to know, I want them to be able to listen to our music and be like, “OK, I understand. Even if I don’t agree, I can understand what they’re trying to say and what their message is.”
MARIAH: We know what we believe. We know what our pastors believe and what we stand on. Then when you realize like, “Oh, thousands, if not millions, of people are going to listen to the song and question us,” I hated that because I know the people that did this, and I know the heart behind it. It felt like this was God telling us what to say, and like God was putting us on our hearts. God put these lyrics in our hands. And we had to have the guts to put them out there.
We’ve seen, obviously, a lot of the resistance towards it. I realized it’s OK. I think all of us just know that it’s OK. We have a peace about it because we didn’t write this song, we didn’t write this album, we didn’t write these lyrics for approval.
What did you write them for then?
MARIAH: It’s for the people that, on YouTube, are like, “I’m an atheist and this song really spoke to me.” One of those people is worth all of the dogmatic, conservative opinions — which we also love and we also care about. But this is our voice and this is our belief, and this is who we know Jesus to be in our lives. It’s hard. I’m not going to be the one that says, “Oh, criticism is the easiest thing in the world. I love it. Bring it on.” It just is what it is. It’s hard. But we’ve seen people cross that line of faith because of these things, because of Jesus believing that they’re worthy and that they’re good.
We’ve just seen it too many times to not believe that it’s true. We’ve seen too many people be healed and restored and fall in love with Jesus, and lives be put back together and marriages be healed and all that stuff because of these truths. There is beauty in the joy that comes from worship.
Mosaic MSC’s HUMAN will be available everywhere Friday, March 15. Check out the single “Dreams” here.