Aimee Wallis Buchanan had a passion for working with youth that began when she was barely more than a youth herself.
“She was in youth ministry all of her adult life — starting as an interim youth director at First Presbyterian Church (in) Waco, Texas, while she was still in college!” said Bill Buchanan, her husband and ministry partner.
Aimee, who died suddenly in February from complications with the flu, wrote books on youth ministry, arts and worship. She eventually took a call as associate pastor working with youth at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church in Asheville, N.C. During this time the Buchanans also did a lot of retreat and conference leadership at events like the Montreat Youth Conference and the Presbyterian Youth Triennium.
“Aimee and I felt a call to start Asheville Youth Mission,” Buchanan said of the organization they founded in 2009. “She was always committed to working with youth, bringing the arts into the church and getting young people out in the community in mission and service.”
Youth groups from across the country come to AYM to do mission and service work. Some of the work is physical and some is relational. Youth could be spreading mulch or they could be handing out popsicles and talking with homeless people.
“It was always important to Aimee, and continues to be important to us at AYM, to break down barriers between people. It is important to put a name and a face and a story to issues like hunger, homelessness, poverty,” Buchanan said. “It is important to see the face of Christ in everyone — especially those that the community ignores or rejects.”
Aimee also incorporated the dramatic arts at AYM through Many Voices, a program that gave youth participants a chance to develop and perform an original one-act play with a message they wanted to communicate to their peers and the community about life as a teenager.
When suddenly passed away, she left a hole felt by many in the community. Two long-time friends of the Buchanans, musicians Steve Lindsley and David LaMotte, wanted to do something to honor her. They approached Buchanan with the idea of a tribute album.
Although Aimee’s interest in the arts focused mostly on the visual arts, writing and drama, the idea for a musical tribute made sense.
“Aimee and I both have gotten to know a number of local musicians here in Asheville. Mostly that’s because our 13-year-old son, Taylor, is a hot-shot bass player and gigs with his band around town,” he said. “All of these artists have some connection to us. Steve, David and I just started having conversations with people.”
The music on the album comes from a variety of styles like blues, funk, acoustic, rock and folk. Some of it is more church-oriented, some of it is secular and some crosses over. One selection is in Spanish. Another is by the Asheville High School Concert Band, of which the Buchanans’ daughter, Elli, is a member. All of the selections, except for the Asheville High Band song, are original compositions. Some were written specifically for the project. The cover art for the album is from an art project Aimee did.
“The range of material is very diverse. Very fitting for Aimee’s life,” Buchanan said.
“A Life Well Loved” is available for download now at www.alifelwellloved.bandcamp.com. All proceeds from the album will go to Asheville Youth Mission to continue the work Aimee loved. A full listing of the songs and artists on the album, along with song samples, can also be found online.
“I (personally and on behalf of AYM) am humbled by this gesture,” Buchanan said. “A lot of people have put in a lot of effort to make this happen. It is beautiful and healing to see people’s interest in the album, doing something to remember Aimee, doing something to support AYM, which continues as her legacy. We hope it will be a blessing to others who buy the album and enjoy listening to it.”
Toni Montgomery is a freelance writer in Statesville, N.C., where she is also secretary for First Presbyterian Church.