Religion

Rebecca St. James is proving she has more to offer

"Christian pop artist" no longer adequately describes Rebecca St. James or the event she is bringing to Crossroads Christian Church on Sunday.

People with a little memory of Christian rock know St. James was the young Australian whose hit albums in the late 1990s and early 2000s, including Pray and Transform, helped bring a modern sensibility to music often regarded as about 10 years behind the pop charts. But in the past decade, she has released only two albums of new, original material while adding author, actress and speaker to her résumé.

Sunday's "SHE" conference combines three of those: It will feature St. James singing with fellow Christian music icon Evie Tornquist, and both of them speaking at an event designed to empower women and girls. The conference is based on two of St. James' best-selling books, SHE (which stands for safe, healthy and empowered) and SHE Teen.

"It's rare to have a girls' night out for mothers and daughters," St. James says from Los Angeles, where she now lives. "A lot of girls that come treat it as a night to dress up and enjoy being together, and really, it is a night of encouragement and music and sharing."

St. James says she particularly enjoys sharing the stage with Tornquist, who was known simply as Evie to many Christian music fans in the 1970s and '80s.

"She could have been a comedian, she is so hilarious," St. James says. "It's very interactive. We have a Q&A time in the show. It's like a three-hour conference-meets-a-music-event-meets-a-comedy-show."

The conferences have been very successful. But that St. James still receives honors such as "favorite female singer," in Christian music polls indicates that despite an absence of new music, there's a hunger for St. James: Christian pop star.

And there is new music in the works.

"At the point I started coming off the road four years ago, I was pretty exhausted having been on the road 12 or 13 years straight," St. James says. "I really didn't want to just hash out an album when I didn't feel like I had anything that was authentic or fresh or that came from my heart.

"Now, the more I do spot shows and SHE events, I'm in a spot where I do feel like things are fresh."

St. James says she is working on a worship- oriented album that will combine new music and established praise hits that she anticipates will put a "fresh modern feel" on worship. "The main thing is that people will be able to worship God with it ... I don't want to get caught up in making something sound so super hip at the cost of it not truly drawing people in to worship."

St. James has long maintained that, while many of her Christian music compatriots have courted the mainstream market, she aims for Christian listeners.

"I think people are really understanding the niche of Christian music and that there's an audience here that really wants to buy music and have encouragement through music for their walk with God," St. James says.

The past few years, St. James also has been trying to dole out encouragement in a new venue: film.

After dipping her toes into acting and drama through several projects, including the rock opera Hero and a VeggieTales cartoon, St. James starred in the anti-abortion film Sarah's Choice, in which her character, an unwed pregnant woman considering an abortion, is shown some potential consequences of her decision.

According to the Internet Movie Database, St. James has four more movies in the can.

"I really sensed there was a need for more people to be out here in L.A. that wanted to see more family films, films with values and morals, and be encouraged, and films of faith," St. James says. "I sensed God was encouraging me to continue making music, continue writing books, but also to dive in on faith and family films. So I moved to California two years ago sensing that calling, and it's been an incredible thing seeing doors open and meeting people with a similar heart to me."

It seems that maybe St. James also needs to add juggler to her résumé, with all the career paths she is pursuing. But she says things have had a way of evening out.

"Generally I'm not working on multiple projects at the same time," St. James says. "If I'm working on a film, I try not to do anything on the music level. I try not to double up on things, but I have a wonderful team that takes care of a lot of the details."

And whatever she is doing, St. James strives for the same essential thing.

"In art, no matter what form it is in, authenticity is the key," St. James says. "The audience wants a sense of humanity they can relate to."

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