Tanya Riches has already achieved more than many dream of in a lifetime. Gaining scholarship to a PhD program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Los Angeles, she lived in Los Angeles for over two years. In this time, she worked as Chapel Co-ordinator, in the team planning liturgical worship services for the world's largest evangelical seminary. But most recently she has returned to her homeland of Australia to complete fieldwork - an ethnography of Australia’s Indigenous Christians attending urban contemporary churches.
Her worship ministry first began in the worship team of Hillsong Church where she served for many years under Darlene Zschech, and Reuben Morgan. She published a number of well-known songs through Hillsong Music Australia, including ‘Jesus What A Beautiful Name,’ which reached #6 on Australia’s CCLI worship charts. And, she administrated one of the most successful worship bands in history, Hillsong United, for its first six years. Her song 'Hear Our Prayer' was on their second album, Everyday.
As lead singer of Australian independent band ‘Speaking of Sarah’, she performed weekly across Australia for many years - including mainstage at Australia largest Christian music festivals. During this time the band recorded and toured the album Seven Hundred Seasons (2006). When the founding musicians made a difficult decision to focus on family life, Tanya felt called to pursue theological studies, and completed her Masters degree, then MPhil, finally enrolling in a PhD.
She is now not only now a respected academic working in Pentecostal Studies and Missiology, but one of the world’s most respected scholars regarding the phenomenon of Hillsong Church. She is an honourary research fellow for the Cadbury Centre for Religion at the University of Birmingham, UK. She has taught sixteen week semester courses at Alphacrucis College, Sydney, such as 'Post-modern Worship Community' (2005) and 'Contemporary Worship' (2006). She has taught many lectures in classrooms all over the world (at Trinity College in Singapore, Emmanuel College in Canada, Regent University and Liberty University in Virginia, and Andrews University in South Bend to name a few). Her intensive 'Pentecostal Worship' intensive will be hosted at Malaysia's AlphaOmega College in 2015.
Her humour and skill as a speaker are displayed at conferences and events, including significant Christian confernces such as the Brilliance Conference (CA, 2012), Assemblies of God National Conference in Wellington, New Zealand (2009), Nation Builders Conference, Philipinnes (2003), Hillsong Youth Conference, Sydney (1998-2002) and many others. She pioneered the Sinergia Conference in Sicily with a team of Italio-Australians (2006, 2007, 2008). And now, Tanya is addicted to Sicily and its luscious food, coffee, and beaches. She sings in broken Italian... but the beloved Nonnas and Nonnos don't seem to mind when she forgets to roll her 'r's - so long as she consumes their handmade pasta and continues to point them towards Jesus.
Her PhD research is an attempt further reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, by bringing attention to the work of Indigenous Christian leaders in some of Australia's major cities (The Gold Coast, Perth and Cairns). Her deep desire is for justice.
This is not the first time she has sought to listen to those marginalized and quietened by dominant culture. Her first solo album Grace was a deliberate attempt to write from experiences she recorded during her research amongst people with disability while at The University of Sydney. This album was an ecumenical collaboration with some of Australia’s best songwriters.
Tanya believes that the power of worship is in individual voices joining as one to worship Jesus Christ. This is the power of Tanya’s leadership, in so many spheres. A thinker, a worshipper, a writer, a consultant, a poet. She will point you and your community heaven-ward.