Acton Institute Powerblog

‘Work Songs’: A new collection of hymns on work and vocation

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In June of 2017, a group of 60 Christian creatives gathered in New York City to discuss and reflect on the intersection of worship and vocation. Known as the The Porter’s Gate Worship Project, the group is comprised of musicians, pastors, writers, and scholars, aiming to “reimagine and recreate worship that welcomes, reflects and impacts both community and the Church.”

Their first album, Work Songs, is a collection of 13 modern hymns, each crafted to connect the meaning and dignity of daily work with the heartbeat of God and the Gospel. Coming from a wide range of denominations and church traditions, the album’s songwriters, performers, and producers include Audrey Assad, Josh Garrels, Andy Crouch, Will Reagan, Urban Doxology, Sandra McCracken, and Stuart Townend, among others.

The songs also range in their diversity of emphasis and perspective.

Serving as an anthem of invitation to the Lord, Aaron Keyes and Urban Doxology ask for God to “establish the work of our hands,” highlighting the importance of Spirit-led economic action in an age that too often glorifies the Self. “If You don’t build it, we labor in vain,” they sing. “Without Your Spirit, we stand with no strength.”

Latifah Alattas offers a stirring reflection on the spiritual promise of stewardship, singing to “God the maker” who transforms our time and treasure into “more than we could ever know.” Likewise, in “Little Things with Great Love,” Madison Cunningham sings of a Creator God whose garden grows and flourishes in rhythms and wonders of abundance — “every drink of water, flowing graciously.”

In “Wood and Nails,” lyricist Keith Watts prompts us to reflect more specifically on the work of our hands, writing of the “humble carpenter” and “loving laborer” who built a home for us through loving sacrifice. “O show me how to work and praise, trusting that I am Your instrument!”

Not forgetting the value of work outside the “workplace,” in “Every Mother Every Father,” Paul Zach, Cunningham, and Assad sing together of the vocation of parenthood and the “call to raise up sons or daughters.”

“Our neighbors are asking real questions: ‘How do we live together in peace, how do we find identity and meaning in our lives, how can we make a difference in our world and how do we value human life,’” says Isaac Wardell, director of worship arts at Trinity Presbyterian in Charlottesville, Virginia, and founder of The Porter’s Gate. “Vocation is central to these questions. “Millennials are especially concerned with their sense of work and its meaningfulness, so we set out to write songs that address some of these questions, to give people a voice and a way to connect with each other in song.”

Through and through, the collection offers a refreshing Christ-filled perspective in an age when the tools of economics are too often seen as mechanisms for materialism. Dwelling on the intersection of worship and work, these artists foster far more than mere theology, infusing meaning through gratitude and unleashing power through praise.

Images: Photograph by Brittany Fan, used with permission from The Porter’s Gate

Joseph Sunde is an associate editor and writer for the Acton Institute. His work has appeared in venues such as The Federalist, First Things, The City, The Christian Post, The Stream, Charisma News, Juicy Ecumenism, Ethika Politika, Made to Flourish, and the Center for Faith and Work. Joseph resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and four children.

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