The First Gospel Hour has never mistaken the limits of their small town as the ends of the world. They have a vision of reaching of seeing ministry not as they are, but what they ought to be. The First Gospel Hour is not just the weekly hour of worship that takes place in the small town of Minden in Louisiana. They are committed to make their "Praise and Worship" done the "Southern Style" so infectious that people from all over the globe would join in to the singing of the King of kings. Often on the show they would bring in some of the biggest names in Southern Gospel music (such as the Talley Trio, Mark Trammell Quartet, Gordon Mote among others) to lead in worship. Finally, they have taken the leap of faith in the releasing of their ambitious collection of music entitled "Southern Offerings." We are honored to be able to chat with the First Gospel Hour's worship leader Todd DuBose for this Hallels' exclusive interview:
Hallels: Can you tell our readers what is the First Gospel Hour?
The First Gospel Hour is a worship service at First Baptist Minden with a southern flair. Some years back, due to space limitations in our blended 10:45 service, we decided to offer an early service at 8 a.m. During our discussions we decided to go with a little different format for that service. We are a First Baptist Church, and we have a large contingency of folks who enjoy hymns so initially we thought we would have a more reserved, traditional service in that hour. After a couple of years we were averaging about 130 people. The atmosphere in that service was somewhat somber and at some points catatonic. There was very little interaction in worship, and the same message that would be enthusiastically received when preached in the second service seemed to be met with cricket's chirping in the first. Eventually, this led to discussions about tweaking our approach to the early service. After all, we want everything we do to impact and reach people for Christ. Our Pastor, Leland Crawford, mentioned the possibility of using the same format we have in the second service for the first (CCM, Praise and Worship, Prestonwood style Choir/Orchestra, ensemble, praise band, and some tradition hymns). I felt that we needed to keep a service that was a little more hymn focused, because we have some wonderful Godly people who love them. The more we considered what to do; the Lord seemed to remind us that our church is located in a rural setting, and that there are engaging southern-styles that are popular around us that we could employ. So, we decided to move towards those by offering Country-Gospel, Southern Gospel, Blue-Grass Gospel, and some modern worship with a down-home texture. We intentionally have kept it a worship service with congregational singing and gospel preaching, but we also bring in musical guests to help lead in the services sometimes. Since we began the First Gospel Hour, we have seen an increase in our Sunday School attendance, and the average weekly attendance for that service has more than doubled. The service format has grown to include regulars such as our house band (Riverflow), bluegrass sensations The Cox Family, the Chordsmith quartet, The DuBose Trio, and our First Gospel Choir.
Hallels: If I am not wrong, you have some of the biggest names in Southern Gospel on First Gospel Hour. Can you tell us who you have had as guests?
We have hosted: Gold City, Gordon Mote, Tribute Quartet, Jeff and Sheri Easter, The Talley Trio, The LeFevre Quartet, Mark Trammell Quartet, Ann Downing, and others...
Hallels: Can people who do not live near to the area hear and participate in the worship of First Gospel Hour? Are these services broadcast online?
Our plans are to produce a weekly broadcast in the future that would broadcast on radio and online. Ideally, we would like for it to not only be a music program---we want it to include at least a portion of Pastor Crawford's messages.
Hallels: Let's talk about the new album released by the First Gospel Hour "Southern Offerings." What's the vision behind this album?
With God's help, what do you hope to accomplish with this album? Our vision statement as a ministry is: "Bringing our best in authentic praise, to lift high the Lord Jesus, so that others will join in worshiping him." It was our hope to produce a worthwhile project that could be carried out into other areas to spread the Word every day of the week rather than just on Sunday. This ultimately resulted in an ambitious collection of music we released on October 20th at our "Night of Southern Offerings" concert. Award-winning Gordon Mote recorded our music tracks in Nashville, Grammy Winner/First Baptist Minden Member Sidney Cox produced the project, Grammy winner Chris Bell engineered it, and finally Grammy winners Lurssen Mastering mastered the project. "Southern Offerings" is our attempt to share the talents and ministry God has given First Baptist Minden with the world.
Hallels: You have some guests singing on the record, can you tell us more about who's on the record?
The album features: The well known Cox Family, Gordon Mote who was our first guest artist for the First Gospel Hour, a dynamic quartet from our region called Chordsmith, my family trio The DuBoses, and incredible soprano Rachel Chapman, some young talented artists---Meredith Nelson and Brandon Ratcliff, and our First Gospel Choir which is a combination of three of First Baptist's Choirs.
Hallels: You've got some diverse selection on songs on the record from Dolly Parton to Don Williams to a Passion Worship tune. How did you get to choose the songs on this record?
Sidney Cox and I chose the songs for the project. Our criteria were: we wanted songs that focused on Jesus, songs that had been a blessing in services at our church, and songs that represented the diversity of our worship here. Sidney had a vast reservoir of songs from years of performing with his family, and some of the songs came from that: "Heaven's Just a Prayer Away" and "Jordan". What was interesting to me personally was that some of the songs like "You Revive Me" were chosen by Sidney who has a bluegrass background, and the Don Williams cut "You're My Best Friend" was one I chose with my background more in CCM and Praise and Worship. So, there were some interesting paths that led us to the final list. One of those interesting paths was when I changed a couple of the lines in "You're My Best Friend" to make it work in our worship medley. The song was not written in a gospel context, but when I would hear Don Williams sing it---I just felt that it related to my feelings for Christ. When it came time for licensing the track we had to get special permission from Wayland Holyfield who graciously allowed the slight alterations to his incredible song. Eventually, we ended up with songs that accomplished what we were hoping they would, and that offer something for everyone.
Hallels: If our readers would like to purchase "Southern Offerings," where can they go and find out more about the First Gospel Hour?
Southern offerings is available through all the major online outlets such as iTunes and CD Baby, and you can find out more about the first Gospel Hour's schedule of upcoming artists and performances at www.firstgospelhour.com