Winnipeg singer-songwriter Jaylene Johnson impressed judges with her melodic "Hope." SAMARA WIEBE

Winning song takes hope seriously

When Jaylene Johnson talks about hope, she isn’t offering up platitudes. The Winnipeg singer-songwriter has been through many ups and downs, including a traumatic car accident in 2004 that left her with what she calls “brutal, daily chronic pain.”

Winnipeg singer-songwriter Jaylene Johnson impressed judges with her melodic "Hope."  SAMARA WIEBE
Winnipeg singer-songwriter Jaylene Johnson impressed judges with her melodic “Hope.” SAMARA WIEBE

This depth shines through in her song “Hope,” a melodic folk number recently selected as winner of General Synod’s Marks of Mission song contest.

“I think hope is mysterious or maybe not so mysterious when we walk with God,” she said in a recent interview.

Her song lyrics describe a hope that’s deep and enduring, beyond cheap gestures of “pulling petals off” or “fingers crossed.”

“The playing was superb, and the song was very, very good,” said contest judge Randy Murray, communications officer for the Diocese of New Westminster and former member of rock group BTO.

More than 70 songs—from rock to choral—were sent in for the song contest, which called for pieces relating to the Marks of Mission, five ministry priorities used throughout the Anglican Communion.

“Hope” really stood out for judges Mr. Murray; Bishop Gordon Light, a member of praise group Common Cup Company; and Jeff Enns, a well-known composer and music director at St. James Lutheran Church in Elmira, Ont.

“[The song has an] inspiring chorus…and a fresh modern sound,” the judges wrote in their final summary. “Jaylene has a singular vocal style which is certainly comparable to other contemporary female singer songwriters but at the same time she is an original.”

Later in 2012, the winning song will be professionally recorded and distributed throughout the Anglican Church of Canada and beyond.

“This is a tremendous opportunity,” said Ms. Johnson. “I’m excited about the idea that it can reach the ears of people, potentially have an impact, and be an encouragement.”

Balancing music and more
The skill heard in “Hope” wasn’t happenstance. Ms. Johnson, who plays piano and guitar, has been honing her skills over five recordings, picking up nominations (Western Canadian Music Awards) and song placements in TV shows (Being Erica, Degrassi: The Next Generation) along the way. She co-wrote “Hope” in 2010 with Nashville musician Jim Kimball.

Yet music is only part of what Ms. Johnson juggles. The former flight attendant has an education degree and works as a substitute teacher, often in French immersion schools.

She works as ministry coordinator at saint benedict’s table, an Anglican community in downtown Winnipeg, where she organizes events like house concerts. Ms. Johnson also worships in this community and it was here that she first heard about the Marks of Mission contest.

After learning “Hope” had won, Ms. Johnson had a surge of new hope herself.

“Sometimes the juggling act can get very wearisome,” she said. “But [the win] was a shot in the arm and an encouragement to say, ‘You know, Jaylene, you’ve got something here. Keep going.'”

Honourable mentions were “We Bear the Marks of Mission” by Joanne Redhead, “Confirmation Song,” by Tracy Dignum,” and “Sanctus,” by Stephen Black.

The song contest is part of General Synod’s ongoing initiative to promote the Marks of Mission throughout the Anglican Church of Canada. To learn more about contests and ways to share your own stories of the Marks of Mission, visit the website.

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