For some, Ashmont Hill may evoke images of a beautiful pastoral New England America. For this Gospel quartet, though, it’s much more than that. “The name linked us,” explains April Joy Thompson. “It’s our family. We loved where we grew up.”
Three of the four members – April, Phil and Deborah -- are children of Bishop Gilbert Thompson, founder of Boston’s Jubilee Christian Church. Wil Bullock, Deborah’s husband, is the fourth.
“There are five boys and three girls in our family,” April tells ChristianMusic.com in an interview. “All eight of us are in fulltime ministry.” Most work directly with the nondenominational Apostolic “church without walls,” one of Boston’s largest Protestant “mega-churches.”
“We all grew up singing. It’s a very musical family. We performed at weddings, funerals, that kind of thing,” April says. “Then one day my dad asked four of us to sing something before he preached. One of his favorite hymns. We really liked the way we sounded together. Philip and I have always wanted to do something professionally. We always had that desire to record and sing. It was like a divine moment for us.”
Originally, the quartet included brother Michael. When he became Jubilee Church’s youth director, though, it made it impossible to tour. Deborah’s husband, Wil, replaced him, keeping it in the family. \
Their first album, “Ashmont Hill,” on Axiom Records – “it means ‘where truth is evident’” – debuted earlier this year just as their tour with Natalie Grant was ending. “We’re really blessed. People have latched onto the album,” says April. It made number 10 on the Gospel charts and number 16 on the Christian Contemporary Music charts.
“Our message is love, and how much God loves us, and the relationship God wants to have with us,” says April. “Give your life to him. He died for you, so why not live for him.”
Like many Christian artists, April and her family extend their devotion to everything they do. April is a minister of music at Jubilee, where she conducts the choir and mentors young women. Wil works as a farmer, taking inner-city kids out to the farm every day, teaching them to grow food, and then they get to sell it. They are also WorldVision artists, at concerts signing up people to sponsor children and other relief efforts.
Though April names a variety of Gospel artists such as The Winans, Commissioned, Fred Hammond and many others as musical inspirations, it is clear that the true spiritual inspiration for this close-knit devoted family group is the father, Bishop Thompson.
“Pastors’ kids can sometimes get disassociated or even angry with the church,” April says. “But our dad wasn’t like that. He was devoted to his kids. At home, he was much more our dad than a pastor. He would teach us scripture and would allow us to ask a lot of questions, and he would answer the questions. For us, it is really more of a relationship with God than a church.”
By Nate Lee