Rita West pursues ministry, releases new single

Alumna Rita West followed her passion of learning the guitar and now leads worship. At the end of her senior year at Southeastern, she played at the Lion Nation Christian Invasion and has recently released her single “Heart of Mercy,” co-written with artist John Finch.

Alumna Rita West followed her passion of learning the guitar and now leads worship. At the end of her senior year at Southeastern, she played at the Lion Nation Christian Invasion and has recently released her single “Heart of Mercy,” co-written with artist John Finch.
The Lion's Roar/Megan Ferrando

Despite not learning to play the guitar until after high school, alumna Rita West has pursued her passion of leading worship, the combination of  music and faith. West, who graduated in communication in 2014, helped lead Lion Nation Christian Invasion during the spring 2016 semester and also was featured on a recently released single, “Heart of Mercy,” co-written with artist John Finch. The two artists met at the university.

West and Finch traveled to Nashville to record the single. The first song West has recorded in a studio “Heart of Mercy” was also made into a music video, which has gained over 1,000 views on YouTube and over 40,000 views on Facebook. 

“The biggest thing is that the Lord invites us in,” said West as she explained the meaning behind the song. “So often in our culture right now there can be this feeling that Christians, the church and even that God is not merciful and it’s just this condemnation thing. But in reality, God is a father who welcomes us in no matter what. He calls us into his heart of mercy. The Lord speaks to us and he says, ‘I want you to come and come into my heart of mercy and experience the new life that I have for you, and the restoration and the redemption that I have for you.’”

“Heart of Mercy” originated as West and Finch were planning a retreat in January with the theme, “Into the Heart of Mercy.” 

“He texted me one day and was like, ‘I have this idea. I think we should write a song about the heart of mercy and I don’t really know what that means but it won’t come out of my mind,’” said West. “Before we had even met to write this song, he texted me and said, ‘Keep your calendar open because I just booked the studio and we’re going to record this song.’ I was like, ‘You know we haven’t written it yet, right?’ He was like, ‘Yeah it will be okay, it will be fine, I know that we’ll do it.’ It was great. We got together once at a friend’s house and had the majority of the lyrics written. On the retreat that kind of inspired it, we just stayed up late one night and finished writing it, finished the melody and finished the lyrics. So in two song-writing sessions, it was finished.”

Before writing “Heart of Mercy,” the two started the song-writing session in prayer. West writes many of her original songs this way. 

“A lot of the songs that I’ve written have just come out of my own prayer, my own messed up stuff that’s happening in my life,” said West. “It’s just gathering lyrics from my own heart when the Lord is speaking and from scripture that He’s spoken through.”

West has also found inspiration from artists who express honesty in their lyrics.

“That kind of vulnerability in worship leaders has had the biggest influence on me to be like I don’t want to write a generic song,” said West. “I want this to be a reflection of myself and my encounters with the Lord. That’s what I want it to be because I connect so much when other people are vulnerable in worship.”

Although West grew up in a large family of 11 with many who liked to sing, she did not seriously pick up music until her time working with NET Ministries after she graduated high school. West helped put on retreats around the country during her two years with the ministry. She also learned to play guitar and began leading worship for the first time.

“I just fell in love with playing guitar and leading worship,” said West. “It came pretty naturally. I was leading worship every day which is really awesome because it helped boost my confidence a little bit to be able to do it in a safe place, and mess up, and sing in the wrong key and everybody just not caring. It was a good environment doing it in.”

West is hoping to record again in the Fall and pursue music for the long term. Her purpose in music however is because of her faith.

“Being a full time musician, getting to that point is really difficult but it’s not impossible,” said West. “It can happen. The reason I’m doing what I’m doing with music is for the Lord. So if anything other than His glory is my goal, then I’m going to fall flat on my face anyway.”

Her single, “Heart of Mercy,” can be found on YouTube and iTunes. West can be contacted at [email protected]