By Joshua Maloni
The math is pretty simple.
When Kingdom Bound Ministries Executive Director Donna Russo said, “As I was preparing for the (Kingdom Bound) festival, I felt the Lord bring me to James 1:22, ‘But be doers of the word, and not hearers only,’ ” then she was probably expecting something along the lines of Matthew 22.
The Pharisees asked Jesus, “Which is the great commandment in the Law?” He replied, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
So, if 2+2 = 4 – if Jesus said to love people, and Russo sought to encourage folks to act on his words – then Kingdom Bound should’ve been a place of acceptance.
That’s exactly what this writer found when attending two of the festival’s four days this week.
Kingdom Bound was the epicenter of love, kindness, forgiveness and, yes, tolerance. It didn’t matter who showed up – what they wore, who they dated, mistakes they’d made – everyone was greeted warmly, and given encouragement to live their best life.
Seminars, speakers, concerts – even the arts and crafts areas – sought to lift up the tens of thousands who descended upon Six Flags Darien Lake.
Russo said, “There are many of us who attend the festival and receive, who need a gentle push to realize that God makes deposits in us calling us to invest back into our world and the people in it. It is that investment through serving others that changes lives.”
Among the highlights of the 33rd annual Kingdom Bound:
•The AMPED! Tent served as a place for middle-schoolers to kick-start their days with high-energy music, play games, compete for prizes and even learn a lesson or two.
•The Worship Tent was an area for more reflective music, plus speakers and teachings.
•Kingdom Bound @ the Gazebo Stage offered more contemporary and urban musical stylings.
•Darien Lake’s amphitheater boasted a “who’s who” of Christian musicians, including the return of Rebecca St. James; upstart acts The Young Escape and Ledger; “American Idol” alum Danny Gokey; for KING & COUNTRY, who just dropped a new track featuring Echosmith; and Skillet, a band that recently passed 2 billion Pandora streams.
Kingdom Bound Ministries Marketing and Communications Director Dave Bruno said, “Kingdom Bound 2019 was a fantastic festival that drew crowds in recent festival record numbers from 26 states and three Canadian provinces to Six Flags Darien Lake. From the music on three stages, to art classes, to speakers, to activities for the whole family and more, 2019 was a great success. We so appreciate all those who attended and look forward to what is to come at Kingdom Bound 2020.”
Rebecca St. James in concert (amphitheater)
Rebecca St. James and her husband, Jacob "Cubbie" Fink.
Rebecca St. James Q&A with Family Life's Terese Main (Worship Tent)
Preview by Joshua Maloni
Rebecca St. James was on top of the mountain.
At the turn of the century, she was it when it came to female Christian musicians. No one was more popular, won as many awards, or sold rock records like she did.
St. James had it all – success, fame, money, Chick-fil-A – before that was a thing.
But there was one thing she didn’t have – something St. James sought more than any material good, accolade or applause: a husband.
This desire grew stronger with the release of her 2000 hit “Wait For Me,” wherein the singer loudly and publicly declared she wouldn’t have sex until marriage. At each concert, she would sing, “Darling did you know that I/I dream about you/Waiting for the look in your eyes/When we meet for the first time/Darling did you know that I/I pray about you/Praying that you will hold on/And Keep your loving eyes only for me/Cause I am waiting for/Praying for you, darling/Wait for me, too/Wait for me as I wait for you.”
And wait she did.
For more than 10 years, St. James would offer up this prayer – trusting God, but also feeling the weight of her words.
Just when doubt started to creep in, and finding the right man to marry was paramount to landing on the moon, something marvelous happened.
St. James met, fell in love with, and wed Foster The People bassist/vocalist Jacob "Cubbie" Fink. Today, they have two young daughters – and myriad opportunities to share their testimony with eager crowds.
You see, it’s not that St. James couldn’t find a man. The striking Australian vocalist certainly checked all the relationship boxes. But she didn’t want a man – she wanted a mate – a partner – and St. James wasn’t going to compromise herself or her beliefs just to have someone put a ring on it.
A triumphant St. James will return to Western New York on Tuesday, when she will perform on the main Kingdom Bound stage at Darien Lake.
NFP recently caught up with St. James. An edited Q&A follows.
Q: So, Rebecca, this is probably the seventh or eighth time I've interviewed you. But it’s been about eight years – and it doesn't go unnoticed to me that this has probably been the best eight years of your life. Tell me a little bit about what life has been like for you over the past eight years.
Rebecca St. James: Aw, man – and it doesn't surprise me that it's been that timeframe, too, because I actually got married eight years ago. So you're right, it has been the best years of my life, because it’s like such a fulfillment of so many dreams of mine that I've had my whole life.
I’m the oldest of seven kids and just always wanted a family. And so, it was just so appreciated when that dream came true.
We have two kids now: We have a 5-year-old and a 1-year-old. When we do these shows, we’re traveling as a family and bringing them out, and going to homeschool our daughter in the fall.
It's a sweet time – really sweet.
Q: When you think back to your childhood, when you thought about what marriage and family would be, has it been even better than what you imagined?
Rebecca St. James: Yeah. I think you can never know, before any great and profound experience, all that it’s going to entail until you live it, you know?
In a lot of ways, when you marry, you're jumping off this cliff of faith in God and that other person, because you can't guarantee exactly what things are gonna look like, and you can't manipulate somebody else into being this certain way.
But, in some ways, I feel like marriage is two things all at once – and one doesn't hurt or nullify the other. I feel like it's more extraordinary and more beautiful than what I could have known. That element of your spouse being your person for life; that you’re in everything together. You don’t do anything entirely alone. You don't face the future alone.
Now, obviously, something can happen to your spouse that is unexpected or tragic. But, that knowledge that I'm just not alone in things anymore is just so beautiful. And to have this amazing life pattern in “Cubbie” has just been extraordinary.
And then, you know, there's elements, too, in life like hurdles that come your way that you don't expect. And I feel like we've weathered certain things that have come our way, outside circumstances that have come our way, and gone through that together. And you don't expect that.
And in some ways, when you see your spouse's pain, it doubles your pain, you know, because you're hurting for them, as well. So, there's elements like that, that you can't anticipate, before marriage, but the fact that you, again, get to do the highs and the lows together, I think that is just the most beautiful and profound thing.
Q: I know from past interviews, and just being a fan of yours and having written about you several times, you've never been one who has been egotistical, or “Look at me! Look at me!” But, if we go back to the late ’90s or when we go back to the early part of this century, there were two things that sort of happened to you as a result of your talent, but also as a result of your Christian faith and your integrity. And I'm guessing these two things were both a challenge for you.
The first thing I want to ask you about is “Wait for Me,” and the abstinence platform. I mean, for someone who is not looking for the spotlight, that's a very hard thing to be talking about; to be singing about; to be living. Why did you write the song? And did you know that this was sort of going to become synonymous with you – that you'd be asked about it so many times in interviews and whatnot?
Rebecca St. James: No, I didn't know that. I didn't know that it would become such a kind of, like, theme throughout my entire ministry and life. Yeah, no, definitely didn't plan that.
And I wrote the song because it just actually was very, very organic. I was speaking about purity a lot, before writing that song, and because I was a teen and then in my early 20s, kind of talking to other young people. Not many people, publicly, were speaking about purity at that point.
It is a vulnerable thing, I suppose, to be upfront about. And then probably the longer that I waited, it became more and more vulnerable. Because I think, in some ways, there was that hope deferred makes the heart sick, you know? I was not only singing that, but I was still single, in my late 20s and very early 30s. By then, publicly, I was singing about this dream, without a guarantee that it would actually happen.
So, it did become kind of challenging the longer that I was single – but I don't regret it, at the same time. I think it was this message that is really important, especially in the day and age that we live in. And now having two daughters, I think my husband and I know, more than ever, how important that message is. And, you know, he waited for me, too, which is just the most beautiful thing, because he's a super-attractive man (laughs). I hit the jackpot with him, inside and out.
So, it's a sweet time, honestly, now, because I'm able to say to people, “You know, it's worth the wait,” and “Hold on for God’s person for you.” I'm able to tell kind of the ending to the story now, which is just very beautiful and very redemptive to me.
Q: I have a lot of respect for you. To me, there was no doubt that this was the way things were going to go. There was no doubt you were going to find someone and he was going to be amazing; you're going to have kids. From the outside looking in – which is obviously a lot easier to do – but from the outside, it’s like there was no doubt this is going to happen for you. But like you said, as you got into your 30s, that had to be super-stressful.
Now, I would think it would be just like a giant weight off your shoulders. Am I correct?
Rebecca St. James: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah, you know, at a certain point, I think, for me, singing that song when I was single, I mean, I would almost have an anxiety attack. I found it hard breathing during that song, I think, because the pain was pretty intense. And again, it just kind of exacerbated that feeling of loneliness.
And now, you know, he's traveling with me. We’re traveling as a family. He’s playing bass for me, actually, for some of the shows right now, and will be at Kingdom Bound. So, it’s just incredibly beautiful to be able to even, like, point him out to people and go, “This is my husband. This is our life now.” And “God’s way is beautiful.” And to share that other part of our story is really lovely.
And we're looking at a lot of ministry opportunities together, he and I. He’s very gifted in a lot of different areas, both musically, and with film, and speaking, as well. So, I know God’s going to lead us – and he is – in kind of new adventures. There’s doors opening up right now that we're just really excited about.
Rebecca St. James at Kingdom Bound in 2011.
Q: The second thing is, again, for someone who's not looking for the spotlight, for a long period of time, you were the most famous, most popular female in Christian music; winning awards every single year. To be that person – when you have a personality that's not looking for that spotlight – what was that like for you?
Rebecca St. James: There was definitely points, I feel like, where I struggled with the platform that I had been entrusted with; and I definitely always saw it as a calling. I also know that any kind of notoriety can kind of mess with your head.
And, you know, my dad was my manager, and he's actually still managing with me with the things that I'm doing now. He's also managing my brothers in for KING & COUNTRY. He always said – and I know he says it to my brothers, as well – just almost don't believe your own publicity. You’ve just got to be careful to not start thinking too highly of yourself, because it ends up kind of sabotaging your own person.
So, there were definitely, I think, a few points where I struggled with, even the way that people would look at me. Like, I'd be signing autographs and could just kind of see a certain look in people's eyes, where they had you on a platform. And I think, for me, I was always trying, from the stage or, you know, in anything kind of public, to kind of do away with that platform that people were putting me up on. I sought to be authentic; but it's a weird thing.
You know, when you think about it, you are on a stage in front of thousands of people, and they're looking at you, and kind of elevating you, in a way. And I think without God kind of giving us perspective on that – and coming back to the fact that, as Christians, anything we do is all about him, you know, no matter what it is – I think that was a very stabilizing element to me, as well as traveling with my family. You know, they would treat me the same no matter what. And I'm really grateful for that.
Q: Your dad has always had a keen eye for the music industry, but I'm wondering, when he was first working with you guys, did he tell you, “One day, you're gonna have to go and play in Buffalo, New York, every year; it's gonna be super-important”?
Rebecca St. James: (Laughs) Man, we love it. Kingdom Bound’s been a part of our family from day one of me starting in music. There’s never been any form of sacrifice. It's been a privilege to play in Buffalo. Both Kingdom Bound and then the shows that we have played in the area, too.
I’ve always felt very loved by the Buffalo area, and appreciated. And so it's a joy to be back. It just feels like family, you know? It’s really nice.
Q: What are the song selections, do you think, when we see you? You don’t have to give me the whole setlist, but what will be the thought process of pulling from your extensive catalog when you come here?
Rebecca St. James: Well, I can tell you a few. We will be doing “Wait for Me,” which, again, is that special moment, because I can point out my husband.
We will be doing “God” from the super-early days – second album for me; mid-‘90s, really, with that one. And then some worship songs. And we will also do a song from my last album, which, again, was a while ago, a song called “You Make Everything Beautiful,” that just talks about God's redemption, and his kindness even through kind of winter seasons.
I do talk about some winter seasons that my husband and I have walked through, and some miscarriages that we had. And just hurdles in life that we all have that are hard. God calls us to just trust him and trust his goodness in the middle of it. I’ll be sharing, from my heart, about things like that, too.
And when I have shared the power of that, honestly, about some of struggles, it's definitely been something that resonates with people, and makes a lot of people realize that they're not alone in going through really challenging stuff. And that it's just about all of us, you know, turning to God, together, and trusting that he can redeem even the hardest things in life.
Q: It's that mentality that you bring to the stage, and some of your worship songs, that really led to my respect for you. But the thing that first attracted me to your music is the rock; you've had a good rock sensibility about you, as well. And one thing that maybe people wouldn't necessarily associate with you is a lot of your songs have what we would call a sort of industrial rock tinge to them.
What were your musical influences growing up, and what led you to rock?
Rebecca St. James: You know, I was really a rock kid.
I grew up on Stryper and Petra and WhiteHeart and all these Christian rock bands that were very big at that time. And my dad toured them in Australia when I was growing up. So, I didn't really, you know, I didn't really listen to mainstream music too much.
Ah, you know what, we listened to a little bit of pop, actually, but not super regularly – but probably enough to have some pop sensibilities, too, just with my melodies. But then, what I kind of lived in, more often than not, was rock bands.
So, I think in those early days, definitely – and throughout, really – probably less so towards the end of when I was doing music before – but throughout a lot of it, I did want to have these, like, kind of powerful rock, kind of up-tempo moments. And I think the other element, for me, driving that was I wanted always to have a strong live show where people could really engage with it, and it just had a lot of energy and a lot of power. And I think, you know, a lot of rock music has that, live; it's not kind of middle of the road, or sleepy; it's got that energy to it that translates well live. I think that was a factor for me, as well.
Rebecca St. James is online at https://www.facebook.com/RSJames/.
For more information, visit www.kingdombound.org.