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 vision for worship. Literally a family, Anna (guitar) and Ben Hodge (drums), Ally (keys) 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 five recording projects. Keep Breathing (2009), Flickering Spark (2011), Just Offshore (2013), Ancient Gates (2014), and We Hymn (2016). “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.”
Alanna Story’s most recent release, We Hymn, is a collection of hymns that have been reworked and rearranged for the modern worship context. When asked why they wanted to record a hymns album, the sisters responded, ‘We grew up singing hymns in church and with our family, and we have always loved the depth of the lyrics and the way the melodies get into your head and heart. But we have also seen how the heritage of our ‘hymns’ has often divided the Church’s worship culture in some ways. Though the songs of old are lyrically beautiful and have stood the test of time, hymns aren’t just songs that can be found in a hymnal; hymns are being written and sung all the time by this generation and will continue for generations to come...because it’s all praise!’ Along with the full-length We Hymn album, the band has also released the Worship Leader’s Toolkit which includes corresponding charts, choir arrangements, tracks and song devotionals. These tools have been used by worship leaders across the country in an effort to help bridge the generational divide and create powerful, unifying worship experiences.
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 to God.”