Renowned Co Antrim hymn writers back home to host ‘really special’ music event
More than 10,000 people will join world-renowned hymn writers Keith and Kristyn Getty in Belfast this weekend for their largest ever conference of congregational music.
The Sing! Conference has become a staple in Nashville, where the Co Antrim-born pair live. But this is the first time they have brought it home.
Keith, who grew up in Lisburn, and Kristyn from Glengormley, live between Nashville and here with their four daughters Eliza (8), Charlotte (5), Grace (3) and Tahlia (1).
The conference at the SSE Arena will be the biggest yet and aims to encourage churches towards a deeper, more dynamic view of theology, artistry and mission in congregational singing and will be focused on equipping, educating and encouraging church leaders.
The event started last night with the conference aspect, which is focused on the teaching in their book Sing! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family And Church, which was published in 2017.
At the arena concert tonight Keith and Kristyn will perform their best-known music including In Christ Alone, which was the most frequently sung hymn in UK churches for a record-setting nine consecutive years.
Keith, speaking from the north coast, said: "It's absolutely great to be home.
"Our favourite three places are Bushmills Inn, Harry's Shack in Portstewart and Lost and Found in Coleraine.
"I've just circled the Causeway twice today already.
"Life doesn't get any better than this."
He said the family enjoy everything about coming back as the couple tour with their children.
He added: "I love everything about here. We as a family are more relaxed.
"Our life in Nashville and the tours are so crazy, but I love coming home to family, to old friends, I love the north coast. It's incredible."
As he prepares for the weekend, Keith says it is all the more special because this is the birthplace of all their projects - including the hugely successful In Christ Alone.
The hymn is sung by an estimated 100 million people around the world each year.
"It's amazing. Between the conference and the concert there are over 10,000 people coming this weekend," he added.
"Everything we did started here: the songs started here, the idea behind modern hymns started here, the songs, the events and each of our major projects we've come back and launched in Ireland, because this is home.
"So this is really special."
The couple are well-known globally, but Keith just says they feel immense gratitude that their hymns are popular.
He said: "We are so thankful. Every day I'm thankful that I get to make music and the fact that we've been able to write hymns that churches sing is just... I can't think of a job I'd rather do in life, it's a total privilege." And where do they keep finding inspiration for creating their modern hymns?
"One of my heroes said that as he reads the Old Testament, New Testament and all Christian history, the teachers are supposed to teach the Bible and the Bible gets carried out of church in the songs that are sung," he said.
"In other words, songs aren't just side entertainment, they aren't the warm-up act, they aren't some transcendental experience, but actually singing is how we form our thinking of the Christian faith.
"We are always aware that the words we write are helping to form the next generation of Christian thinkers."
In the midst of the turmoil of world issues and uncertain challenges like Brexit, Keith says religion and faith remains the most relevant and resonating thing for him.
He said: "When I meet people who are dealing with family suicides, or dealing with cancer, or dealing with disappointment, then I don't really know what to say, but I know that setting the truth of God to music that touches people is something that is ultimately relevant. That's eternally relevant.
"Men make plans and God laughs, that's the bottom line."
He continued: "Certainly, do I think people in Northern Ireland need to become aware of Christ more than ever? Yes I do.
"But we also have to be careful.
"At one level, church attendance in Northern Ireland has reduced and certainly there has been more open rebellion to Christian principles than in previous generations.
"But the other side of the coin is, I come back every year and I meet people who at school had no interest in Christ and are now believers.
"Christianity is the fastest growing religion in global cities in the world today.
"Which I think tells you a very different story than necessarily the media always want to tell you."
Keith says they are always keeping an eye on what's going on here and this place is always in their prayers.
But for now the family are looking forward to their upcoming shows both here and in the US before a well-earned rest in the summer, where they have a digital detox.
"After that we go back to the Sing! Conference in Nashville and then we are launching our global education this August," he added. "That's going to be both a subscription service and we hope to make it available free in 100 countries that most church people couldn't afford it."
- Sing! is on tonight at the SSE Arena in Belfast