In 12th Century Benedictine tradition, the Church was viewed as a warm and hospitable place always open, and desirous, of wanderers and weary travelers. In fact, one monk would always be posted as the lookout, scanning the horizon for those in need of shelter called the “porter.” Whenever a road-worn traveler found his way to the monastery, the porter made sure that all the monks were alerted to greet the guest, wash his feet, feed clothe them, and pronounce that “Christ is surely among us.”
With this ancient vow of hospitality in mind, Isaac Wardell has formed The Porter’s Gate as a new movement in worship music, conversation, and community that seeks to return the high value of hospitality to us again. The fruit of this movement is The Porter Gate’s Worship Project: Volume 1/Work Songs featuring Audrey Assad, Josh Garrels, Liz Vice, Urban Doxology, and Aaron Keyes. Earthy, sober, raw, and organic are words that describe the songs on this stripped down, live project, a completely intentional move to show that authentic worship doesn’t have to be over-produced in order to reach the heart.
Wardell, director of worship arts at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, understands very well the need for unity in a racially and politically divided church and country. The violent Unite the Right white supremacists rally garnering international news happened very close to Trinity and hit home for Wardell and the church.
It’s time, he says, to be an agent of change, to change the way the church engages the community. To reimagine a movement of redeeming love that seeks to welcome those outside its doors. “Of all our particular practices, liturgies and beliefs, the thing that marks us the most is our welcome, our hospitality,” Wardell says. “By becoming the porter at the gate, the Church identifying itself by its welcome/hospitality, it is a renunciation of power…” he says of the organization’s mission. “We give up the power to control the narrative and embrace the community and what it brings to the Church.” (Quoted from The Welcome of Worship
The Porter’s Gate Re-Imagines Music That Celebrates the Work of the People by Melissa Riddle Chalos)
If you’re someone critical of the “modern worship movement,” you’ll find Wardell and The Porter’s Gate’s music quite down-to-earth and refreshing. It’s almost like you’re sitting in the sanctuary at Trinity singing along with Wardell, Assad, Garrels, and the others as they bring worship back to the people.
You can connect with Isaac Wardell and read more about The Porter’s Gate at www.portersgateworship.com.
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