Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 8, 2010
Chart-topper musician plays for glory of God
Newfoundland-born Matt Maher embraced the Catholic faith in a charismatic Arizona Church
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Matt Maher has the talent to be at the top of the charts in the pop music industry. But the Canadian-born contemporary Christian music artist, songwriter and worship leader is content with singing for the glory of God.
"I write (and perform) songs that lead people to an encounter with God," he said recently at a news conference.
The 35-year-old Maher was in Edmonton in late January to perform at Break Forth, the largest equipping and renewal conference in North America. About 15,000 people representing a variety of churches attended the Jan. 29-31 conference at Shaw Conference Centre.
"I'm just here because I love Jesus and his people," he said.
Born and raised in Newfoundland, Maher left for Arizona at age 20. There he joined the Catholic Church and started playing "church music."
He first gained notice as the writer of the renowned worship song, Your Grace Is Enough, from his 2008 major label debut, Empty & Beautiful. Last December, Apple Inc.'s iTunes Store, the industry-leading digital music retailer, named his song Alive Again as the Best Christian & Gospel single of 2009.
"Music was always part of my life," Maher says. "I always knew I was going to be a musician."
Realizing his musical talent, his parents enrolled him in piano lessons and the lad quickly immersed himself in a variety of music styles, playing in concert and jazz ensembles, singing in a choir and playing in a garage rock band.
When his parents divorced in 1995, Maher moved to Mesa, Ariz., where, aided by a scholarship from the jazz department at Arizona State University, he completed studies in jazz piano.
Maher wasn't a churchgoer at the time but said "yes" when his cousin invited him to Sunday Mass at St. Timothy's Church in Mesa. There he met the parish's charismatic community.
"So I got evangelized by charismatics," he said. "They initially formed me in a sense of what it means to have a relationship with the Lord and to be open to the gifts of the Spirit."
Within six months of moving to Arizona "I was involved in ministry," he recalled. "I moved there in July. In August I gave my heart to God and then in September I was playing music at church. It was just very, very sudden. It kind of felt like God had said 'I'm so glad you are here; now there is so much we need to catch up on because there is so much I want to show you.'"
Maher says his life up until recently felt like a whirlwind "because I feel like I crammed 35 years of living into 15 years."
"Now I just attend Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and I am helping build community," he said. "I go to a Bible study on Monday nights with 15 people and that's the thing I am most excited about right now."
Maher thinks small groups like his Bible study group are an accurate portrayal of what God wants the Christian life to look like.
"This conference is great and I love getting to worship with 7,000 people, but this is just not realistic," he said. "There is nothing realistic about this. Most churches can't afford a multimillion-dollar site with huge production and smoke and lights (and) I don't know necessarily if we need all of that."
As music director of his parish, Maher's skills grew quickly. In 2001, he released the first of three independent albums. Later, he signed a record deal with the Essential label, a relationship that allowed him to record and release his first official album - Empty & Beautiful - in 2008. Maher's second album, Alive Again, was released in September 2009.
Despite his busy writing and touring schedules, Maher finds time to serve alongside ministries such as Life Teen, Adore Ministries and Catholic Relief Services.
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