From as early as age 13, sisters Ally West and Anna Hodge have been using their gifts to lead others in worship. Growing up in a pastor’s home and surrounded by music, their passion for God and for worship began naturally. “I sensed from a really young age that the Lord had put a special place in my heart for worship,” Ally says. “I was pretty shy as a little girl, but I also loved to sing at the top of my lungs. So I often went into my closet with my worship tapes and my microphone and sang out to the Lord.”
This passion evolved into a deep calling as doors began to open for the sisters to use their giftings in greater capacities. “We started to be entrusted as worship leaders among our peers. It was terrifying, but it also felt like we were stepping into what the Lord wanted us to do. And as we simply said ‘yes’ to God, He kept giving us more opportunities to lead,” Ally shares.
As their love for the Lord deepened and their leadership platform expanded throughout their high school and college years at Anderson University, their passion to lead others into God’s presence also grew. “The role of a worship leader is to have one hand on the heart of God and one hand on the heart of the people,” Anna emphasizes. “To simultaneously be listening to the heart of the Father and also discerning where the people we are leading are at—so that we can help lead them closer to the heart of God…if they are willing to go.”
In 2008, the sisters combined their names and their love for stories and testimonies and officially formed Alanna Story. They were quickly surrounded with incredible musicians who share the same heart for worship. Literally a family, Anna and Ben Hodge (drums), Ally and Stephen West (guitar), and Joel Burkhead (bass) value authenticity on and off the stage, fight for unity with each other and with the Lord, and create a powerful atmosphere for others to encounter God.
As both worship leaders and original artists, Alanna Story has released four recording projects. Keep Breathing (2009), Flickering Spark (2011), Just Offshore (2013), and Ancient Gates (2014). “We are both corporate worship leaders and original artists, and those two have never been separate for us. They go together in such a beautiful way,” Ally shares. “We write songs to open hearts and to break down barriers. To point out things that maybe we can’t see on our own.” As an English major with a love for words, Anna shares the same heart for writing. “I want to make music that helps bridge the gap between the heart of God and the distracted reality we often find ourselves in. I want our songs to put words to unseen things and ultimately help lead people to a place of authentic worship.”
The band’s most recent release, Ancient Gates, is a collection of ‘now’ songs that they feel called to carry to the Church for this particular time in history. Written around Psalm 24, the Ancient Gates message of awakening has now been shared all around the country. “It’s been exciting to get to sing and share with His Church this amazing purpose that we have as Spirit-filled, God-purposed people. That God’s presence is alive in us and wants to flow through us,” says Ally.
Having been aptly nicknamed ‘preachers who sing’, the sisters’ platform has always gone beyond just music. They have a passion for encouraging and challenging the Church to go deeper, and they are intentional about communicating truth and bringing their audience to a place of response. “I think these Ancient Gates songs are an opportunity to call His people to repentance. I think that’s on the Lord’s heart right now especially for His Church. And we want to be obedient to carry that message,” Anna says.
Regardless of their platform, Alanna Story’s main pursuit is unwavering—love God and do what He says. Anna concludes, “I know that worship transcends music. It’s a way of living. A way of giving worth to the most vital part of my life, and that’s the Lord. Our music and what we do in a corporate worship setting is definitely a powerful avenue to allow a community to worship together, but it goes so much deeper than that. Worship is a heart posture. It’s a daily surrendering of my whole heart and every part of my life to God.”
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