Phil Wickham remembers the first time his father heard him play a song he’d written.

He wasn’t looking for an audience, but it nevertheless caught the attention of his father—a worship pastor in their San Diego church.

“That’s actually a good worship song,” Phil remembers his father telling him. “Can I play that in our sanctuary?”

It was the first worship song Phil ever wrote. It would not be the last.

In the ten years and nine records since Phil recorded his first worship album, whatever his father noticed has caught the attention of the world at large. Wickham has a passion for using music to create a community—a place where hearts and minds are inclined as one.

“There is nothing that brings the church together like worship music,” he says. “Not only are we all singing the same truth, we’re singing the same notes. Not only the same notes, but the same rhythm. To be one of the writers who gets to create songs that are used in a corporate setting where people thinking on the same truth and worshiping the same God and clapping to the same beat—it’s a beautiful moment.”

And Phil’s new album, The Ascension, is full of such beautiful moments. Though the title calls to mind bodies gently levitating towards the stars, Phil says the inspiration was much more grounded.

“I love the Psalms,” he says. “Fifteen of them are called Songs of Ascent. (Psalm 120-134) Some scholars believe that these psalms were sung by the Jews when they would “ascend” to visit the Holy Temple three times annually for the festivals. These festivals were like massive, country-wide parties. At that time, it was known that God’s presence on earth was in the Temple. So, to be in his presence would be to go to these annual feasts, and to walk up the hill to Jerusalem. They would ascend together and walk to Jerusalem with their families and their towns. They’d sing these songs of ascent that would be songs of anticipation and excitement and remembrance and worship.”

Such Songs of Ascent were exceptionally rare and especially treasured by the Hebrews. But today, Phil believes the songs take on a different, even more beautiful meaning.


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