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Sounds like … Doerksen's familiar Vineyard worship approach, blending traditional with contemporary by touching on pop, rock, Celtic, jazz, and traditional hymnsAt a glance … available on CD and video, the combination of Doerksen's practical message with artistic expressions make Today a potent worship experience that could inspire churches to glorify God with similar zeal and diversityTrack ListingToday (As for Me and My House)EverlastingYou Are Everything (Everything I Need)The RiverMy Redeemer (Into My Father's House)A Mighty Fortress Is Our GodFortress 144Refiner's FireLead Us Lord (Dream Again)Creation CallsFaithful Father / Your FaithfulnessGreat Is Thy FaithfulnessHear from HeavenI See the Cross (choral introduction)I See the CrossToday (reprise)
For 15 years, the contemporary worship scene has appreciated the music ministry of Brian Doerksen, best known for such popular mainstays as "Come Now Is the Time to Worship," "Refiner's Fire," "Hallelujah (Your Love Is Amazing)," "Your Name Is Holy," and "Light the Fire Again." An insightful songwriter, musician, and worship leader, Doerksen (pronounced Dirk-sen) has yet to achieve the household name recognition of his contemporaries Darlene Zschech or Matt Redman. In some ways, that might be a good thing, but that could all change with Today, which could well be the worship album/event of 2004.
Today was recorded at Northview Church in Doerksen's hometown of Abbotsford, British Columbia. Were it not for the occasional rounds of applause between tracks, you might not know this were a live performance from the CD, because it's that well recorded. It's also available as a 90-minute video (DVD or VHS), and while the music stands on its own, the visuals that accompany it are also powerful. After hearing this CD for the first time, I was elated to learn that there was a video for it as well.
Doerksen's inspiration for Today comes from Nehemiah 4, which chronicles the work of the Israelites to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem after their exile in Babylon. More specifically, the focus is on the halfway point—the crossroads at which God's people either give up hope out of fear and discouragement, or choose to persevere out of faith and obedience. Doerksen impressively applies this slice of Bible history to all our lives through the application of worship and the arts. This is a thematic worship album, and there's no chance of missing the message either. The CD booklet includes photos, lyrics, detailed song explanations with Scripture, and Doerksen's overall rationale for the album. Additionally, the video includes plenty of spoken musings and teachings in between songs.
The message that ties together all the songs is impressive in itself, but Doerksen also remembers that he is an artist, and Today is one of the most ambitious undertakings in blended worship. The songs range from traditional hymns to soft inspirational pop to rocking modern worship, with a lot more wedged in between. The music's core features the typical five-piece praise band, colored by the wind instruments of Doerksen's friend James Isaacs. On top of that, there's a 9-piece string section, a choir, and guest appearances by a jazz ensemble and a children's choir.
Wait, there's more—it's easy to see why the thank you's in the liner notes are so extensive. Today also taps into accompaniment from the visual arts, including stage design, lighting, costumes, interpretive dance, and congregational sign language. Taking a page out of Pink Floyd's playbook, there are people dressed as Israelites that gradually build a wall at the foot of the stage throughout the worship service. Later, a small regiment of cloaked men carrying torches enters the sanctuary as a men's chorus sings "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God," setting the stage for the spiritual warfare expressed in the funky pop/rock of "Fortress 144." A pleasant Vineyard styled pop/rock song like "Everlasting" is made more vibrant with the addition of the choir, as dancers with flags and ribbons make their way down the church aisles. And the aforementioned jazz ensemble helps give the hymn "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" a new spin while remaining true to its tone and form.
Clearly this is not just a concert, but rather a worship service expressed through community effort. It's not often something like this is captured on CD and video, short of a Billy Graham Crusade or a visit from the Pope. Doerksen breathes new life into classics like "Refiner's Fire," "Creation Calls," and "I See the Cross" while effectively tying them into his message. The album does, however, rely as much on old material as it does new, leaving the title track (recently featured on Kathryn Scott's solo debut) as the only new song to likely be embraced by the church worldwide. Intentionally or not, this worship team has set an example to stir the hearts of churches around the world. Today is proof that worship is as creative, vibrant, and meaningful as we choose to make it, and as God chooses to bless it.