Woodstock First Baptist music minister Cliff Duren holds his Dove Award Oct. 15, standing with his wife, April, and two older children, 13-year-old Sidney and Mack, 14. Unable to make the trip to Nashville were the couple’s nine-year-olds, Emma Kate and Elijah. Photo courtesy of Cliff Duren
NASHVILLE — Cliff Duren took home his third Dove Award Oct. 15 in as many years, this time winning Choral Collection of the Year for his work as arranger and orchestrator on “The Great American Songbook.”
Duren, who was welcomed in June to Woodstock First Baptist Church as senior minister of music and worship, also earned a nomination in the Musical of the Year category.
“My [musical] roots are with gospel music. So with this I got to go back and revisit some songs from my past, ones I hadn’t heard in years,” he told The Index. “It was a cool experience.”
Producing the songbook and accompanying record required Duren working and coordinating with some 40 musicians and orchestra singers. “I didn’t get there alone, that’s for sure,” he added.
In 2017 Duren received the Dove Award for Musical of the Year. In 2018 he and fellow music minister Jeff Bumgardner received Choral Collection of the Year for their work in producing the songbook “Your Word.” Bumgardner, an alum of Brewton-Parker College, serves just across the South Carolina state line at First Baptist Church of North Augusta.
A ministry home
Duren grew up in a small Independent Baptist church in Conyers and later attended Shorter College (now Shorter University). There, he earned a music education degree and helped lead a church plant in Cartersville. He would follow up with receiving a master’s degree in Church Music from Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee.
Duren’s ministry experience includes Union Road Baptist Church in Austell, where current Georgia Baptist Evangelism catalyst (and fellow Shorter alum) Levi Skipper was pastor. From there Duren went for his first stay at First Baptist Woodstock, serving as associate to the church’s music minister at the time, Scott White.
“I grew up, ministry-wise, at First Woodstock,” Duren said.
He would remain there for six years before accepting a staff position at Brentwood Baptist Church near Nashville. By this time Duren had been receiving opportunities to not just work with world-class musicians that flock to Nashville. His talents for writing and composing had also garnered attention.
“I had been getting opportunities from publishers and spending a lot of time traveling from Woodstock to Nashville to write and record,” Duren recalled. He would stay in Brentwood for more than seven years before returning to Woodstock.
Duren received his Dove Award at a “pre-show” that occurs before the televised event. “Most of the awards are handed out then,” he explained, “with several categories for church music resources.”
Woodstock Co-pastor Jeremy Morton testified to Duren’s talents carrying over to the church.
“Cliff’s personal lifestyle of worship naturally affects the congregation and creates an environment where people eagerly sing along with him and participate,” said Morton, who joined the church a year ago. “He always puts others on the worship team or choir on display, placing himself out of the limelight.”
Duren’s impression of ministry since being a boy has greatly changed, he said.
“I still can’t believe that I get to do this for a living. God saved me as a teenager in high school and I just remember feeling this conviction to do more, really surrender my life to the Lord. I feel very blessed to serve in the local church and the church at large.”