Bluetree is an Irish worship band that has written one of the most popular contemporary praise anthems in recent years. One day last year, they thought they were something else: dead.
“We got smuggled into Burma illegally,” the band’s frontman, Aaron Boyd, explains from his home in Ireland.
They bribed the Democratic Karen Buddist Army to smuggle them into the country so they could minister to people in a refugee camp. They thought this was a safe journey because they had an army on their side, and the larger Burmese army had not been through the camp they were visiting in years.
“We went to the school and visited and brought in the hymnals and Bibles, and it was brilliant,” Boyd says. “On the way back, the general of the army wanted to meet us. So we all got out of the car — and I didn’t want to get out of the car, I just wanted to get out of the country, because it is really tense and really frightening.
“While we were there, the other army that wasn’t bribed came in off of boarder patrol, and this argument ensued over our lives with this other army saying they were going to slit our throats.”
In the midst of all this, Boyd was handed a guitar and he started singing that signature worship anthem, God of This City.
“I’m singing God of This City to these people who kill Christians, singing, ‘Greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in your city,’” Boyd recalls.
Since the group is coming to Immanuel Baptist Church on Sunday, they obviously got out alive. They will be presenting a few songs at the 9 and 11 a.m. worship services, and then returning for a longer set at the 6 to 8 p.m. young adult service.
It should be a fairly friendly environment for a band that has been used to playing in unfriendly places —though not necessarily places where armies argue over their lives.
God of This City was born in a very dark place in Burma’s neighbor, Thailand.
“We were on a mission trip in Padia, Thailand, and Padia is basically the sex-trade capital of the world,” Boyd recalls. “We were playing churches and schools, and all that normal kind of missions stuff, and we had an absolute blast doing it.
“But one night, God allowed us to lead worship in a bar and brothel on a street called Walking Street, and there’s really no less than 30,000 prostitutes on that street. While we played, prostitution was going on all around us. So we really came out of the bar with that song as a prophetic sight.”
At the time, they were still a church worship group. But in short order, God of This City exploded, particularly when worship music star Chris Tomlin recorded it, and it became the title track of the 2008 offering in the Passion series of CDs, culled from the Rev. Louis Giglio’s Passion conferences.
“God had a plan for that song, and I think he wanted to remind the church of some stuff,” Boyd says.
Maybe there was also a plan for Bluetree.
“Our band Web site went from maybe 100 hits a week to 20,000 a day,” Boyd says.
More than a few people have noted that the band released its self-titled debut around the same time another British Isles worship band, Delirious, had retired from touring and recording.
“We just want to do our thing, and if God’s plan is for us to receive a mantle Martin and the guys carried, that’s fine,” Boyd says, referring to Delirious frontman Martin Smith. “We just want to see the church worship and instead of telling God how big your mountain is or the giant is in your life, you look at your giant and tell him how great your God is. That’s what we want to do in song, and that’s what Delirious did. So if we’re going to carry their mantle, great, I’m in.”