Interview: Creating Worship Songs for a Welcoming Community

Isaac Wardell’s latest collaborative project, The Porter’s Gate, marks a change from Bifrost Arts.

Let all guests who arrive be received like Christ, for he is going to say, “I came as a guest, and you received me.” And to all let due honor be shown, especially to the domestics of the faith and to pilgrims. … Let the head be bowed or the whole body prostrated on the ground in adoration of Christ, who indeed is received in their persons.
— The Holy Rule of St. Benedict, Chapter 53, “On the Reception of Guests”

Imagine this: You’re visiting a church for the first time. As you approach the entrance, you spot the designated greeter, who is wearing a nametag and a warm smile.

You’re expecting the usual handshake and hello. Instead, the greeter suddenly drops to ground, lies face down at your feet, and pronounces a blessing of peace upon you.

If you were a medieval traveler, walking your way across what is now Europe, you’d be used to it. Every time you stopped to spend the night at a monastery on your journey, you’d be greeted that way.

There may have been no more welcoming place than monasteries of the Middle Ages. They took hospitality seriously, treating every guest as if he were Christ himself.

Isaac Wardell would like to see a little more of that in modern churches. Maybe not to the extreme of falling prostrate before every visitor, but at least in the spirit of such Benedictine hospitality.

That’s why Wardell, director for worship arts at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, has launched The Porter’s Gate Worship Project, a self-described “creative movement aimed at reimagining and recreating worship that welcomes, reflects, and impacts both community and the Church.”

When Christianity Today recently sat down with Wardell …

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