Cathedral of Hope, with its Full Orchestra, May Have the Best Church Music in DFW

In 1970, twelve Christians gathered at a Dallas home to form a new church. Forty-three years later, that church, now known as the Cathedral of Hope, has about 4,400 members and around a thousand weekly attendees. The church, with about 85-90 percent of its congregation being part of the LGBTQ community, is the country's largest LGBTQ-inclusive church.

The 11 a.m. on July 21, the service, like all their Sunday services, featured a full orchestra, which, other than the three full-time paid staff members, consists of all volunteers. The choir, mostly middle-aged and older, was wearing white and red robes. While he plays a huge role in planning, David Moldenhauer, CoH's director of music and worship, blended in with the rest of the orchestra as he played the organ. Moldenhauer, the son of a Lutheran pastor, has training in singing, the organ and the piano. His background and his love for music led him to his current position, after he joined the church in 2001.

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The Cathedral of Hope does offer more contemporary and informal services on Wednesday nights, but the traditional Sunday services draw a much larger audience.

After the 11 a.m. service, we talked with CoH member and Oak Cliff resident Gary Roberts. He has attended the Cathedral of Hope since Easter of 1990, when he heard a sermon by Rev. Michael Piazza. (Piazza, as Senior Pastor for nearly twenty years, oversaw the largest growth in the church's history.) Roberts grew up attending a fundamentalist church in Fort Worth. While it was "a slow and difficult change" from his conservative Christian upbringing to his current liberal Christian beliefs, he loves everything about the church. When he joined the church, the music program wasn't much of a factor for him because it wasn't nearly as large and impressive as it is today. For Roberts, the music is just "icing on the cake."

Dallas is home to one of the richest religious music scenes in the country. Over the summer, we'll be attending services, both big and small, of many denominations, as well talking to musicians , directors and pastors. It's considerably more than that now. Before communion, the orchestra gave an exceptionally noteworthy performance of "All Praise Rising," complete with a solo from Paul Mason, a visiting tenor who has previously performed with successful musicians like Patti LaBelle, Jennifer Holiday and Glen Campbell. After the song, the congregation gave a well-deserved standing ovation.

The music had the quality of a professional symphony orchestra, but it was free to attend and came with a sermon too. Toward the end, everyone joined together and held up their hands and sang "Holy Ground," which was one of the service's most powerful moments. The music was almost overwhelming, especially with the organ and drums combining with the collection of voices.

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