Tenth in a series
“We, as Christians, have a legacy to leave, and it's all about a love of Christ to permeate the music and reach the hearts of all of the people out there, that don't know Him and do know Him.” – Lauren Daigle, singer
Amanda Riffe left her own special legacy at Grand Canyon University when she graduated in April.
She was only the second student artist to appear on the Canyon Worship albums in all four of her years at GCU, joining Katie Condon (formerly Katie Brown). And Riffe showed her range of songwriting talents with her CW 2022 song, “Consumers” – it’s nothing like her previous entries.
For one thing, there’s the message that came to her when she felt inspired to write it two years ago:
“I was frustrated with where I was at spiritually. I had been spending some time with the Lord, and I felt like there were so many things that I was doing wrong or I had misaligned my focus. It was just kind of a prayer. It was stream of consciousness.
“I was sitting there just singing and processing through where I was at. I landed on this line of, ‘I don’t want to be a consumer of God, of this relationship. I just want to be Your hands and feet and bless You and bless others by abiding in who You are.’”
And then there’s the music.
“The song’s really simple – two or three chords the whole time,” she said. “It was cool to be able to produce that and still keep it simple. … It just felt right in the moment. A lot of my songs just come out of me – I feel something when I’m playing. It just makes sense to me.”
But, unlike the “Consumers” chords, the messages of Riffe’s songs are typically thoughtful and deep. This one is no exception. Her definition of being a consumer:
“It’s just taking and never giving. As Christians, that can be so dangerous if we’re just expecting God to do everything and we’re never actually surrendering and giving Him everything.
“The song has lines that say, ‘You’ve given me more than enough.’ It’s like, here I am, asking for another penny when You’ve already given me so much. It’s like we ask for these little petty things, and God is like, ‘I have extended all the grace that you needed.’ It’s just having that awareness as a believer.”
GCU Recording Studio Manager Eric Johnson describes Riffe as “a great songwriter. She writes songs that people want to listen to.” But he was taken aback when he saw the song’s title.
“I thought it was going to be a song of rebellion,” he said. “Then I started listening to it and I said, ‘Oh, absolutely not. This is Amanda, through and through.’ ‘Consumers’ brings a challenging message. She’s challenging people to recognize that there is more to life than just take, take, take.”
Dr. Randall Downs, Coordinator of the Worship Arts program, had this takeaway:
“There’s always a temptation to please ourselves, to pursue our own gains. It’s a warning in a beautiful song.”
It also was an appropriate way for Riffe to wrap up her four years in the program. She first came into Canyon Worship prominence in 2020 when her song, “Be Alright,” earned more than a half-million streams on Spotify, and now she can look back on it all with satisfaction:
“When I think about Canyon Worship, every year I just think about growth. I feel like I’ve grown as a person so much. As far as my accomplishments, I surprise myself, I think. Seeing ‘Be Alright’ — I see how that song has impacted people and how it has impacted me.
“I’m still learning from my own songs, just to see God’s favor over that part of my life that I didn’t think was significant. I came into GCU knowing that I loved songwriting, but I didn’t know if I was actually good at it because that had never really been affirmed.
“To come into a place where it’s like, ‘Here. Here’s all this opportunity,’ and to be able to take that and run with it and just see how far I’ve come over four years, it’s like, ‘Man, that’s growth!’”
She had her full-circle moment at GCU this spring. She walked in late to The Gathering, the Tuesday night worship service in Antelope Gymnasium, and was stunned by how it made her feel.
“I heard the sound of GCU singing, and I was just overwhelmed. I sat on the gym floor and just cried. I was just so grateful for what God had allowed me to be a part of.
“I thought of my freshman year, when I was so homesick. In the scariness of my freshman year, The Gathering was that safe place for me. I’m so grateful for this safe place that has been consistent through every time. God has just been so kind to allow me to have these experiences that make me have more confidence to step into the next season.”
Downs, who calls Riffe “a good citizen of GCU,” is confident she’ll continue that good citizenship out in the world. For now, she's happy to be working for University Event Services.
“I’m really excited to see what God does with her,” he said. “I think God’s going to do big things through her, whether it’s in the Christian music industry, whether it’s in the local church, whatever she’s doing.”
This legacy will live on.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].
Canyon Worship 2022 is scheduled to be released Sept. 9 on Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple Music. It will be available in the iTunes Store.