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A message of hope

Winnipeg songwriter co-writes tune that wins Anglican contest

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A Winnipeg songwriter who mused about the nature of hope during moments of deep despair trusts national exposure for her song might inspire others to keep going in their own dark moments.

"Sometimes we just live our lives, but when crisis hits and we face challenges, that's when we think about these things more," explains Jaylene Johnson about her thoughts when writing her song titled Hope, released earlier this month on video.

"In crises, that's when I've leaned on God and experienced God more deeply in my life."

Johnson's melodic pop song, co-written with Nashville musician Jim Kimball, was chosen from 70 entries last year as the winner of the Anglican Church of Canada Marks of Mission contest. Johnson has also written music for TV shows such as Pretty Little Liars and Degrassi: The Next Generation.

Marks of Mission refers to the common themes and beliefs of the worldwide Anglican communion.

Johnson's prize was a professionally produced music video of her song, recorded last spring in Vancouver and Winnipeg. Running at just under five minutes, the video features shots of Johnson at The Forks and recording in Vancouver with the Gospel Noise Choir, which provided backup vocals.

Former BTO member Randy Murray, now based in Vancouver, volunteered his time to produce the album and compiled a team of professional musicians and technicians.

"Really, it's putting (together) a piece of music which is pop music with some depth out on the national stage, from the national (Anglican) church, which is not something we usually do," explains Murray in a brief video about the recording of Hope.

The depth in the song stems from Johnson's hopes that her life would get better, despite her personal troubles. For years, she dealt with chronic pain from injuries in a car accident, and despaired she'd ever resume her regular activities. More recently, her voice was damaged from tubes in her throat during surgery.

"In the thick of it, I didn't know if I'd ever feel like myself again," says the substitute teacher and part-time ministry co-ordinator at St. Benedict's Table, an Anglican congregation that meets at All Saints on Sunday evenings.

"Now I'm in the thick of wondering if I'll ever get my voice (back) again."

But she has hope, and not in a trivial way. Johnson is adamant the basis of her hope is always her Christian faith.

"Hope in and of itself is a God-created thing," says Johnson, who acknowledges her song doesn't speak directly of God, the church or faith.

"We don't have to dig too hard to find inspiring stories where so often the thing that keeps people going is hope."

Senior producer Lisa Barry says this is the first time the Anglican Church of Canada has funded and produced a video of a popular song, now posted on YouTube and the national church website ( Every Anglican parish in Canada will receive a free DVD of the video.

"We are planning through our website to reach the Anglican communion worldwide and make it available," Barry says by telephone from Toronto.

The website also contains the song's lyrics, which compare hope to a bird and a boat providing safety far from shore. Barry says her office is in the process of producing chords so people can sing the song in their churches.

Johnson also sells the track for $1.29 on her website (

But Hope the song may go on to do bigger things, says Barry, who previously produced videos featuring Anglicans across Canada singing well-known hymns.

"We've seen that when things catch on they can really spread," she says, referring to the viral nature of online videos.

Barry is considering hosting a video competition of people singing Johnson's song and producing a compilation video of the results.

Whatever direction the video takes, Johnson is thrilled to have a professional quality recording of her song to share with her fans and the broader church. And when people listen to it, she hopes they'll pause and take a little time to think about the place of hope in their lives.

"I think we can trivialize hope," she says. "But as a Christian, the hope of my calling is anchored on something eternal."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 19, 2013 J13

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