- Grace Worship leads the way in recapturing the richness of our past and folding it into modern worship.
Grace Worship releases Steadfast Love, a journey into what worship, influenced by the past, can bring to the modern worship landscape. Grace Worship is the worship ministry of Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois. This 150-year-old church embraces the hymnody of old and modern worship of today. Kevin King, their Director of Worship, utilizes choirs, orchestras, and contemporary musicians in their worship times. He says,
“As Christians, we worship Jesus, the only One truly worthy of worship.” (Colossians 1:15-16). He also says, “We are a church that is passionate about making the gospel known through song and story.”
Unlike what we see in most modern worship, Steadfast Love uses a more traditional musical approach. This brings a more diverse and full musical experience that is very welcome. Their songs reflect hymns from the past with lyrics that are thoughtful, and poetic and point to Christ. The songs of Steadfast Love stand up to wide orchestral treatments but also shine as standalone melodies sung in a simple setting.
This makes the songs approachable and functional in almost any church environment. They are accessible, spirit-filled, and an excellent example of what worship can be, beyond what most modern worship offers.
Steadfast Love is rooted in scripture and contains a poetic structure that is complex and speaks to the heart. The songs stay faithful to the word, expounding on Christ’s acceptance of us through iambic verse. The new hymns on this album take worship to another level.
The album starts with Steadfast Love (Kevin King). It’s inspired by Lamentations 3:22–23 “The steadfast love of the lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” This powerful scripture sits at the heart of this opening song and at the heart of the worship album.
The piece opens with the lyric,
“When my way is robbed of peace, every sense of goodness gone when my prayers bring no relief, no more hope to carry on. What still stands above, only his steadfast love.”
Hallelujah! Who Shall Part, (William Dickinson, Kevin King, Chris Zobac, Kait Perez, Andrew Kemp, Lauren Deppe, Kyle Hill) stands as a new hymn for modern times. The influence of the traditional is unmistakable, but the modern worship fingerprint is clear. It ties a hymn feel in the verse with a modern chorus that stays on the mind long after the song is over.
The theology of the song is encouraging and portrayed in the lyric, “Hallelujah! Life nor death, powers above nor powers beneath, monarch’s might nor tyrant’s doom, things that are, nor things to come; men nor angels e’er shall part, Christ’s own church from Christ’s own heart.”
The hymn, Dear Refuge of My Very Soul, by Anne Steele (1760) reaches into a full orchestral and choral sound with a modern treatment. It is inspiring to hear coral arrangements, as those rest firmly in the church music tradition. I wonder why modern worship runs from these church traditions. They offer so many interesting musical qualities and a higher musicality. They require more from the writer and producer, yet offer wider access and unity in participation for the average worshiper. This hymn’s treatment shows the depth and breadth of what church music brings to the world. Produced by Chris Zobac, Dear Refuge of My Weary Soul is an example for larger churches to stretch their musicality.
Jesus, Do Not Look On Me uses the sweet melody from Antonin Dvorak’s New World Symphonies Goin’ Home. Bryan Chapell and Kevin King composed a new hymn from the haunting melody, a method common throughout history. This hymn speaks to the soul.
In the past, we have seen modern worship spurn the high musicality seen in the church of the past to the low musicality of today’s world. It’s no mystery why. The industry is built on a secular model that requires immediate profit. Modern worship songs are cranked out in a short amount of time, often using synths and electronic elements to provide sonic complexity. A piece sung by a full choir, accompanied by a full orchestra, and backed by a modern rhythm section can achieve all of that and more, but it requires more time and mastery. Grace Worship leads the way in recapturing the richness of our past and folding it into modern worship.
Please bring more of this to the worship landscape.
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Christopher Watson is an author of six books, both fiction and non-fiction. He is also a musician and composer with a B.A. in Music from Azusa Pacific University. For several years Christopher led worship at The Springs Church while attending Dallas Theological Seminary in Dallas Texas. He's been involved with worship in a number of churches in California and the Pacific Northwest both as a musician and in production and technology. Now he lives and writes in Washington State with his amazing wife, wonderful daughters, and highly intelligent dog, Ellie Mae.