“A light that beckons world-weary strangers to come in and find rest.”
The Porter’s Gate Volume 1: Work Songs
A “sacred arts collective” (www.Portersgateworship.com)
Label: The Porter's Gate
Length: 13 tracks/52 minutes
The Porter’s Gate Volume 1: Work Songs connects worship with vocation, “who we are to be in this world” as recording artist Audrey Assad sees it.
In Christian circles it’s been said that worship isn’t just what happens on Sunday morning. We worship not just with voices but our lives. The 13 “modern hymns” on this release imagine what that looks like.
The Porter’s Gate is a collective of artists from diverse backgrounds seeking to build a community that invites conversation and collaboration. The hope is to become a welcoming presence in an inhospitable world. Founder and producer, Isaac Wardell, believes hospitality can impact the culture more than any other belief and practice of the church.
“Little Things with Great Love” featuring Madison Cunningham is a surprising opener in its stark beauty. It sounds like the resurrection of an ancient hymn:
In the garden of our Savior, no flower grows unseen
His kindness rains like water on every humble seed
No simple act of mercy escapes his watchful eye
For there is One who loves me
His hand is over mine
I could not find a songwriting credit but see that it is included on Evergreen, the Audrey Assad release scheduled for early 2018. Assad is on three tracks but not on this one.
This track is evidence that music is more than notes played. It’s also the silence in between, which in this case gives this a haunting quality. Strings add a classical presence.
“Wood and Nails,” which pairs Assad with Josh Garrels is also available as a single on Noisetrade. Though this release is all about serving others, I take delight in the work done on our behalf, highlighted in the first two lines of the chorus:
The work was done with nothing but
Wood and nails in Your scar-borne hands.
The first sounds on this memorable song are solitary piano notes, gentle strumming and Assad’s voice. Garrels joins in on the second stanza.
In a time when the world can feel like a dreary, overcast day, we could use more joyful songs. “Father, Let Your Kingdom Come” blows the clouds away. It’s a lively, gospel-flavored romp featuring Urban Doxology and friends. Urban Doxology is a group of artists dedicated to racial reconciliation and urban ministry in Richmond, Virginia’s Church Hall neighborhood, which is being renovated. Their soulful voices also enliven “Establish the Work of Our Hands,” another track with a delightful gospel influence.
How do I describe what I hear on “We Labor Unto Glory” sung by Liz Vice? It sounds like a Carrie Newcomer song. It’s a mixture of folk, pop and African American spiritual.
“Christ Has No Body Now But Yours” is Josh Garrels reverential adaptation of the famous Teresa of Avila quotation. The sound of a church organ stands out. The simple lines, which contain no additional thoughts, are repeated throughout with the sound swelling at the end with a congregation of voices.
Isaac Wardell co-founded Bifrost Arts and is the director of worship arts at Trinity Presbyterian in Charlottesville, VA. Readers familiar with the three unique Bifrost Arts recordings will find that the production and styles here are similar. It’s stripped-down, organic, and on the mellower side with thoughtful lyrics.
The promotional materials convey an image of the hoped-for welcome intended here: “The Porter’s Gate seeks to provide an environment in which artists can reimagine the vocation behind their gifts and create music that sets a light at the door of our churches, a light that beckons world-weary strangers to come in and find rest.” Thanks to projects like this and many others there has never been a better time for those who appreciate expressions of praise and worship.