The Magazine of the Presbyterian Church in America
Felt and Feared No More: The Porter’s Gate to Release a Congregationally-Focused Christmas Album
By RuthAnne Jenkins
Porter's Gate

This Christmas, a weary world will rejoice. Though we still bear the weight of loss, uncertainty, deep sorrow, and sickness, we’ll gather to sing and rejoice. Despite our recent, extended time of groaning, God’s people pine for a glorious morn.

In the last two years so much has changed: the way we connect with each other, the way we worship, the way we engage ideas or differences. Such changes further dismantled what many thought they knew about the future of everything from education and the economy to religious services and the church.

For pastors and church leaders,  this difficult time brought new challenges and opportunities for ministry.

Music That Speaks to the Complexity of the Past Year

Isaac Wardell, composer and producer of The Porter’s Gate Project, has been serving in vocational worship ministry for 25 years in Tennessee, Georgia, New York City, and most recently in Virginia.

When he started writing original worship music more than 10 years ago, he also began meeting people from diverse spaces, and it sparked an idea. Wardell knew well the tension pastors and church leaders experience in their work as they navigate the joys and hardships of parishioners each week. So he began thinking about ways to equip them with music that speaks to everyday life.

The result? In 2017, The Porter’s Gate Project began. The goal was to gather a group of theologians, scholars, musicians, and writers together to create resources for the church that “are actually answering the questions that pastors and people are asking on the ground,” he said in a recent interview with byFaith.

Wardell’s desire for “Advent Songs” is to provide churches Advent music that speaks to the complexity of this past year, but also to the depth of church history and God’s faithfulness.

The group began with an album about faith and work called “Work Songs.” The project included singers like Audrey Assad, Josh Garrells, Latifah Alattas, Liz Vice, and others to write about vocation and the goodness of work.

Wardell and his team have produced four albums: “Work Songs” (2017), “Neighbor Songs” (2019), “Justice Songs” (2020), and “Lament Songs” (2020).

This year, they will release “Advent Songs,” November 12.

Wardell’s desire for “Advent Songs” is to provide churches Advent music that speaks to the complexity of this past year, but also to the depth of church history and God’s faithfulness throughout each generation.

“With the amount of grief and disappointments and challenges that planet earth in general, but especially the church in particular, has faced in 2021, thinking about going into the Advent season, how useful would it be for churches to have some 2021 advent songs?” he says.

These particular songs focus on grief, loneliness, and disappointment alongside the hope of why Christ came to earth, like the song, “In a Land by Death Overshadowed”:

In a land by death o’ershadowed,
Life at last begins to shine.
O’er our wars and losing battles,
Peace spreads out its healing vine.
Bring your weak and bring your wounded;
Lay them at the savior’s feet.
Hearts by sorrows worn and plundered
Find in him their strength complete.  

Come, then, all you bent and broken;
He has seen all your distress.
Find the peace by prophets spoken.
Come to comfort. Come to rest.
Every refugee and orphan
Will be welcomed at the door.
All our violence and oppression
Will be felt and feared no more.

A congregationally focused album, “Advent Songs” is for churches and pastors who feel the tension of the sentimentality of Christmas and the reality of many people’s experiences, melding the two into a robust yet relevant set of songs that will help a weary world rejoice this Christmas season.

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