Church with Mumford and Sons

Apparently, Mumford and Sons has been to Portland four times.

Which makes sense if you think about it. They’re made for each other – acoustic folk indie rock band featuring a banjo and Brits, and a city populated by flannel-wearing, tree-hugging, Toms-loving hipsters.

(Of course, I’m over-simplifying. My apologies to Mumford and Sons – I know you’re much more complicated than that.)

The first time they played here was in Lola’s Lounge. Then the Aladdin, one of my favorite venues in Portland. Third was the Crystal Ballroom, which sold out in a matter of hours. And I didn’t get tickets.

I promised myself I wouldn’t miss them again. I would pay what I needed to, I would stay up as late as necessary to buy tickets, I would push old ladies out of my way. Thankfully, it never came to any extremes.

So, the fourth time their bus pulled up to our fair city, I had ticket in hand. The only thing was…it was at the Rose Garden Arena.

Arenas are big. Like thousands of people big. Like basketball games and hockey games and maybe monster truck rallies but not intimate folk-rock quartet concerts. But I promised myself, so there I sat in the Rose Garden Arena with my friend Jenna and thousands of other people.

And what followed was…


Mumford and Sons on CD is like listening to the best worship music.
Mumford and Sons live is like going to church.

Not church where you doodle on the bulletin during the sermon and fall asleep during prayer. I wouldn’t know anything about either of those things, but I hear it happens on occasion.

But church where the pastor’s words embed themselves in your chest in a painful/joyful ache. Or the songs swirl around you, hanging in the air, waiting for God to grab them. And your prayers are whispered in God’s ear as he holds both of your hands.

Mumford live is like all of those things. Embedded words that ache. Songs swirling, waiting for God. Prayers whispered, hands held.

It’s not just that the band is excellent live. Which they are. They sound exactly the same as the album if not better. They were on pitch, the balance was excellent, and I could hear it all crisply, as it was amplified million times to fill the arena space.

But it’s that their songs are beautiful cries of help and lovely cries of hope. It’s an extraordinary moment to be surrounded by three thousand people singing, “I will hold on” over and over and over at the top of their lungs.

Or “Awake my soul, you were meant to meet your Maker.”

Because the heart of it is that I believe that phrase is Gospel truth: our souls were made to meet our Maker, and the Maker is the only one who can awaken our souls, and without that awakening, life will only be a half-truth.

I don’t know what Marcus Mumford believes. Or the other guys in the band. Or anyone in that arena that night, for that matter. We’re not made to know others’ beliefs – we can hardly know moment by moment what we ourselves believe.

But I know that church is a community that rejoices and begs as one. The Mumford congregation did that. We responded to the words we knew so well; we responded as one body. Not being the same, not loving the same, not knowing the same things – just like a real community. We were having church.

And we all sang and danced and prayed together. Even those who didn’t know they were praying. I’m pretty sure God heard those ones most of all.


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