God is All she needs

Victoria Shirey Bowlin sings during 11th Hour’s concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church on Aug. 18.

11th Hour’s Victoria Shirey Bowlin shares His power and providence through music

By John Herndon, KentuckySings.com

When Victoria Shirey Bowlin joined 11th Hour last summer, she could only see it as another way God worked in her life. 

“Honestly, God threw it in my lap,” she says with a huge smile. “I had no intention of ever joining another group when I stopped singing with my family.”

Victoria had sung with her parents and sister for 20 years when she decided to concentrate on ministry with her husband, Aaron Bowlin, and do solo work in 2014. And she was happy in those roles when the opportunity to sing with 11th Hour presented itself. 

But if she sings about God being in control, talks about his love or writes about his care, it’s because she’s lived that life. 

Over and over and over again, she’s seen God work. And she believes he opened the way for her to join the progressive Southern Gospel trio the last weekend of May 2021.

11th Hour’s Amber Eppinette Saunders (left) and Victoria Shirey Bowlin share a duet during the concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church on Aug. 18. (All photos by John Herndon)

“I was singing, he was preaching and we loved it,” Victoria remembers.

But deep in her soul, she felt more than a nudge to become part of a young trio that has been making its presence known in the gospel music industry. In Victoria’s mind, it was a calling. “When this opened up, I started praying about it immediately and it fell into my lap,” Victoria says.

We caught up with Victoria Shirey Bowlin a few minutes after 11th Hour’s concert at Sand Spring Baptist Church on August 18. In a very nice touch, the promoters of the event lined up Victoria’s family, The Shireys, to open the concert. It was the first time the groups had ever been on the same program.

The 11th Hour chapter of Victoria Shirey Bowlin’s story is the latest in a life centered on ministry. Those ministries include her work with the trio, solo work, background vocal work, writing and working with her husband as youth pastors at Fire Place Fellowship, a church in Hendersonville, Tenn. In addition, Victoria serves as a worship leader at the church.

“Oh, I never stop,” she laughs when describing her juggling act. 

But it was just over a year ago when Victoria’s life took the unexpected turn of joining 11th Hour. “I have a wonderful time,” she says. “The Lord is with me and He has allowed me to do a lot of things. 

“I absolutely love being on the road with 11th Hour. They have been so good to me and we have so much fun on the road.”

Victoria Shirey Bowlin of 11th Hour juggles her various ministries.

On stage, the trio gives a powerful presentation of God’s love and provision with cutting-edge music, humor and testimonies of life experiences. Bowlin and group-owner Amber Eppinette Saunders take turns in the emcee role and take the lead on most songs. “We kind of share the load,” Victoria says. “Amber is the boss and she is a wonderful boss. She’s awesome! She is very giving and always willing to let me step up. If I feel led to say something, she will let me say something. She will let me introduce some songs. We just kind of flip-flop around. Technically, I am the alto. Technically, she is the soprano.”

It’s kind of a small, less hectic picture of Bowlin’s task of juggling her various ministries. 

“I have to prioritize,” she says with a smile. “My priority is that my ministry with 11th Hour comes first. The work with our church comes second.”

After that, it’s less defined. Victoria says she can do other work from her home and probably will do solo dates one week a month “to keep my solos out there.” 

It’s all about ministry and God’s care, which she was reminded of soon after joining 11th Hour. 

More than seven hours from her Nashville-area home, Victoria’s father, Wayne Shirey, was hospitalized in Columbia, S.C. While her dad was there, her mother, Darlene, suffered the first of two strokes.

Darlene Shirey worshiped as her daughter, Victoria Bowlin, sang with 11th Hour on Aug. 18.

“That was very hard,” Victoria remembers. “It actually got to one weekend, I had to leave. At that time, we had another guy helping us and Garrett (Saunders, Amber’s husband and group tenor) had to do my part, which is a girls’ part.”

Victoria recalls she made several flights to South Carolina, but was reminded of God’s providence again. “We all worry when something like that happens, but the Lord gave us peace to know that He was in control and that everything would be OK.”

As Wayne and Darlene Shirey showed before 11th Hour took the stage, everything has turned out better than OK. The Shireys were phenomenal, reminding everyone in attendance why they are always welcomed at Sand Spring.

Wayne Shirey joined in as 11th Hour, and his daughter, Victoria, sang at Sand Spring Baptist Church on Aug. 18. It was the first time the groups had appeared together since Victoria Bowlin joined 11th Hour last year.

Seeing God’s care at work – again! – reminded Victoria Shirey Bowlin of His love and care. She’d seen it up close 12 years ago when God delivered her from a bout with depression. 

And that episode reminded Victoria of the importance of music in her life and in God’s plans. She believes she can minister to others through song.

“I found that when I was going through depression, God used music to encourage me to keep going and get through,” she says. “There is an old Kingsmen song they used to do, ‘He’s All I Need’ that was laid on my heart.”

He comforts me when I’m weary and eases every pain

Fills my deepest longing time and time again.

Victoria Shirey Bowlin (center) enjoys The Shireys, opening for 11th Hour on Aug. 18 at Sand Spring Baptist Church. At left is Larry Briscoe of Sand Spring Gospel Concerts. At right is 11th Hour’s Amber Eppinette Saunders.

He’s my soul’s inspiration, my heart’s consolation

He’s my everything. He’s all I need.

He’s All I Need, songwriter Sammy Easom, recorded by The Kingsmen

“I remember saying, ‘Lord, you’re all I need,’” Victoria continues. “It doesn’t matter what is going on around me. You are all I need and when I really got that, you hear it, you say it. But when you really get it and believe it, it means something different to you.

“And there’s a song that actually came out of that when I was delivered from the depression called ‘Still Faithful’ and it talks about through it all, no matter what’s going on around me, Lord, you are still faithful and I trust you through it all,” she says of her own composition. “So music was a big part of me getting through it.”

And she says another artist who had gone through his own struggles ministered to her with the lyrics of a song. “There is another song that I actually called my friend Joseph Habedank,” Bowlin remembers. “He had written a song called, ‘It’s Almost Morning.’ He’s just wonderful and we have been friends for a long time. He sang that song when he was with The Perrys. And when he sang that song, I was listening in my room, and it encouraged me so much to not give up. 

“I remember texting him and saying, ‘You’ll never know how much that song has done to encourage me. It’s amazing how the Lord can use music to encourage you and for uplifting just to get you through and help you just get enough oomph in your step to keep going so you can get through the hard times.”

Victoria has learned that God uses her music even when she feels she has come up short in a performance. 

Victoria Shirey Bowlin.

“I am my worst critic, because I’m really a perfectionist especially in music because it matters to me. It’s very important to me in ministry. I want to make sure what I am doing is the absolute best I can be for me and for the people and most importantly for the Lord. But I have definitely come off the stage kicking myself and saying I just wasn’t feeling good in that one. It was not good.

“I was not good. I was dealing with allergies. I just think (that performance) was awful. And somebody will walk up and say, ‘You just don’t know how much you have blessed me tonight.’ The best thing is when someone comes up and says, ‘That’s the most anointed I’ve ever heard you.’

“In your thinking, you are thinking, ‘I don’t think so,’ but thank you.”

It’s all about God working. Just like He has through Victoria Bowlin’s life.

And the future is bright. Bowlin is looking forward to a new project from 11th Hour and her own new solo CD, her first in four years.

“This is my first all-original project,” she says. “There are 12 songs on it and I wrote all 12 of them. One of them is a co-write. I am thrilled. 

“It has a country gospel sound. 11th Hour is progressive southern gospel. This is country gospel, so when you hear me with 11th Hour and then hear me singing these songs, it will be totally different. 

“11th Hour will have a new project so be looking for that. Then my solo project, we are pushing real hard to get it out in time for the quartet convention. I’m very excited about it.”

11th Hour sings at Sand Spring Baptist Church on Aug. 18. From left are Garrett Saunders, Victoria Shirey Bowlin and Amber Eppinette Saunders.

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