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Photo: The Walking Roots band members (clockwise from left) Jackson Maust, Kristina Yoder, Greg Yoder and Seth Crissman. Photo provided.
The Walking Roots band has been together for almost 10 years. Over that time, they’ve released four albums featuring folk music, hymns performed in new and old arrangements and styles, blues and more. Despite this robust recording portfolio, band members Seth Crissman and Greg Yoder say there’s one question their fans ask regularly: “When will you record a Christmas album?”
And fans of The Walking Roots don’t have to wait much longer. In December, the band will release Hark! A Walking Roots Band Christmas. Crissman and Yoder say that peer pressure wasn’t the only driving factor. The group found it meaningful to study more deeply the themes of the incarnation and Christ’s coming.
“So much of the way the world turns is based on fear and based on anxiety and fear of what might happen or what has happened,” says Crissman. “We know that God is love and that love-with-us in Jesus casts out the fear and holds out hope in a beautiful way. This album helped us turn a mirror to ourselves and to celebrate hope in the midst of hopelessness.”
Yoder says the band tried to steer clear of commercial Christmas songs, opting instead to focus on Christocentric hymns and folk songs.
“This is a rigorously Anabaptist album,” says Yoder. “We tried to strike a balance between things that would be recognizable as Christmas songs and words that are very Christmas-y and talk about the incarnation, but that aren’t traditionally sung at this time of year.”
The group also plans to donate some of the proceeds from the album in perpetuity to Mennonite Central Committee to support relief and development work around the world. The band has performed at benefit concerts in the past, but this is the first time that they’ve committed ongoing profits from album sales to any organization or cause.
“The incarnation – Christ with us – is all about a physical embodiment of our faith commitments and Jesus’s ministry is all about embodied concerns of providing food, shelter…” said Crissman. “What better way to act out those theological beliefs than to partner with MCC.”
Both Crissman and Yoder helped to lead music during youth worship sessions at the 2017 Mennonite Church USA convention in Orlando this July. That experience was another encouragement to them to find ways to celebrate hope even in the midst of hard times.
“For that next two months after convention, we were getting e-mails weekly from people sharing about what was going on in their faith, their life journey and in their church communities,” says Yoder. “For all the doom and gloom and troubling things in the world, we saw a lot of hope in those youth.”
The band is currently taking album pre-orders via a Kickstarter page. The album will first be available on Dec. 9 at a concert at Neffsville Mennonite Church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Kickstarter orders will ship shortly thereafter.
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