The St Albans Cathedral Adult learning Centre founded in 1974 is a local gem. As well as offering a certificate in Christian theology, there are many workshops, talks and study days that are on offer from brushing up on your Latin, to spending an afternoon finding out more about King Arthur, Roman Britain or Shakespeare.

It’s a cold evening in March and we walk into Holywell Lodge, a huge Georgian building in Holywell Hill owned by the Church of England’s St Albans Diocese.

The Rev Lucy Dallas is all smiles and welcomes us; she has prepared a playlist and will be guiding us through some powerful music and videos this evening during her talk on discovering God’s presence in the least likely of cultural places.

My friend is intrigued and has agreed to come and join me for a night of hip hop, rap, grime and pop, as long as I buy her a drink afterwards!

We walk into the room and take our seats. There are about twenty of us of all ages.

Lucy begins by giving us a little background on the band or artist of each of her top ten songs. We kick off with the exuberant sounds of Swedish House Mafia. The video is live in concert and we absorb the positive vibes as they sing "Don’t you worry, don’t you worry child…see heaven has a plan for you!”

The song is an expression of reassurance and love from the lead singer’s father who has faith and helps his son to see the big picture, as he makes the transition from his protected happy childhood to his teens and getting his heart broken in a relationship.

Sam Smith’s song Pray has a spiritual quality that I think resonates with what a lot of young people are feeling these days as it’s been such a huge hit. The artist feels that need to reach out to a higher force but he doesn’t have a personal faith so he sings out that he doesn’t know what else to do but pray. The timbre and depth of his voice, and subtlety of the video add to the message he is trying to convey.

Emeli Sande’s song and video Breathing Underwater has gospel tones and redemptive themes as she calls out to God to heal and have mercy on the harsh realities of urban life and situations that people have to face.

K$sha’s Praying is the perfect choice for a priest as it’s fundamental theme is that of forgiveness. Through the eyes of K$sha we see that forgiveness is never easy.

The video is amazingly lavish in colour, her changes into various theatrical costumes are amazing as she wears the wings of an angel and even a crown of thorns.

There are hugely redemptive themes here and at one point she has reached rock bottom and is emotionally shipwrecked, outstretched on a raft drifting over calm seas and truly struggling with her existence.

The words ‘The Beginning’ appear across the screen in the final image of the video, showing us that she has overcome, and leaves us with a sense of her emotional rebirth.

For me the star of the show is Stormzy’s Blinded by your Grace, although I suspect one or two of his purist grime fans may not like this particular offering of his.

In it he is celebrating his faith while capturing the urban reality of south London and merging it with the uplifting thanksgiving qualities reminiscent of the psalms.

The hundreds of ordinary people that live on the estate are the protagonists of the video and the fact that it is shot in black and white adds to its grittiness.

Stormzy is overjoyed and hasn’t forgotten that he was “broken”, in a dark place and rejoices as he calls out to God “you fixed me”.

I love the way he is lost in the sea of humanity and that as the community sing in unison they’re uplifted by his words, and for me, his smile says it all.

Lucy’s playlist has certainly inspired me to notice God’s presence within contemporary music. You can appreciate the songs on whichever level you choose but that spiritual sense is ever present and there is undoubtedly a reaching out for God.

I’d have liked a little group discussion after the playlist so that we could have shared our views, then again we may have ended up discussing things till late into the night!

As we leave, I get the opportunity to share my thoughts with Lucy and, as with most educational events, am left with more questions than answers as we walk to the pub chatting all the way.

  • Marisa Laycock moved from south west London to St Albans in 2000. She enjoys sharing her experiences of living in the city.