The RIAA certified platinum-selling praise and worship ensemble, Shekinah Glory Ministry (SGM), released, “Refreshed By Fire” the much-anticipated concert video companion to last year’s #1 live double CD, “Refreshed By Fire,” on September 27th.
To the uninitiated, praise and worship music may seem like regular gospel music but it’s deeper than that. It’s a genre of musical conversations between man and God. For lack of a better word, SGM has been labeled a choir but they are more than that. They are a brilliantly colorful assembly of psalmists, minstrels, karar (Hebrew for dancers), encouragers and banner bearers who say that they perform “under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.” Their Hebraic name means “the glorified presence of God” and they present praise and worship with the pageantry of a royal court because they worship the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
Recorded before a SRO crowd of 3,000 at Shekinah Glory Ministry’s Chicago area home church, Valley Kingdom Ministries International, up-and-coming film director, Joel Kapity, who directs the upcoming drama, “Dreams,” captured the essence of the ministry’s calling on this epic concert film that is destined to become for the praise and worship music genre what The Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter” movie is to rock music.
On this film, Apostle H. Daniel Wilson, pastor of Valley Kingdom Ministries International and the visionary who conceived the idea to create Shekinah Glory Ministry during a 40 day sabbatical over a decade ago, opens the infectious concert, flipping through his Bible and announcing, “Well it’s about that time again…” And what time is that? Time to make new history on the stage where Shekinah Glory Ministry recorded their breakthrough smash, “Praise Is What I Do,” back in 2000 and where they have recorded all of their live sets ever since. On that note, a shofar is blown, as in traditional Jewish synagogues, and the service ignites with the militaristic march of “Reclaim Your Mountain” led by worship leader, Elder Phil Tarver. Praise dancers simulate military maneuvers as Tarver raises a fist and commands the house “to take back what the enemy [devil] has stolen” with a buoyant vocal assist by Anjanette Nero. In between, various dimensions of praise music are brought to vivid life through rock, dance and African rhythms so infectious and joyful that the audience never sits through the aerobic-infused first half of this epic concert.
The cool down finally came on “Living Life” which ushers the audience into a meditative moment of spontaneous praise. The evening’s climatic highpoint explodes on the fifteen minute, “The Minstrel Release/ Prayer To The Nations” suite, that opens with graphic artist Shawn Warren stepping before an easel to paint as Tony Carpenter massages the congas and shakes a wooden maraca. The band softly kicks in as SGM leader, Phil Tarver, comes center stage with a Biblical story (II Kings 3:15) of the Prophet Elisha’s prophesying (after a minstrel’s harp playing soothed his mind so that God could speak through him) that The Kingdom of Judah would defeat the Moabites the next morning.
From the back of the audience dancer Michele Davis, draped in a golden robe, comes forward telling the story through twirls and turns as guitarist, Matt Kerr, embellishes the tale with his pulsating picks a la Jimi Hendrix. At the climax, Davis feverishly dances around Kerr’s electrified axe as the Judeans probably paraded around the Moabites during their battle. Kerr’s whole body jerks as he relates his side of the story before losing steam as Davis saunters off in victory. ’The segment closes with Jason Robinson’s multi-lingual musical prayer atop Kerr’s rock-edged guitar tuning. Warren makes his last brush stroke on the canvas and turns the painting clockwise to reveal the Lion of Judah – a Hebrew symbol for Jesus Christ – as the congregation bursts in applause with the same hysterical satisfaction of the fans applauding as The Talking heads’ David Byrne danced with a lampshade on “This Must Be The Place” from Jonathan Demme’s 1984’s classic “Stop Making Sense” concert film.
From that point on, the film transcends into a high praise segment of tender worship tunes that stir the whole sanctuary as the night officially closes on the ballad, “Just For Me.” In this sweet homily, LaTosca House, who led the ministry’s 2007 Top Ten smash “Jesus,” testifies of God’s sacrifice for mankind on this soaring anthem that closes the event on a reverentially riveting high note. The DVD is rounded out with behind-the-scenes footage and commentary on the ministry’s evolution that helps explain what has led to Shekinah Glory Ministry’s Top Ten hits such as “Praise Is What I Do” and “Yes.” Even more so, it explains how a ministry that never set out to become a star has racked up more gold and platinum (two RIAA gold albums, two gold DVDs and one platinum DVD) than any black gospel choir in music history. In explaining Shekinah Glory Ministry’s success on the DVD, Apostle Wilson says, “We put worship on wax and God just blew on it.”