By Kathryn Kircher, UA Staff
This is the third installment in a series of interviews with Homero Garcia, pastor of La Iglesia in Mundelein, Illinois, and Matthew Pelletier, one of the worship leaders there.
KK: One of the values of United Adoration is collaboration in the Church as a way to help each other move forward in creating worship arts. Can you think of any examples when you’ve seen that, or any ways that you’ve encouraged that kind of collaboration at La Iglesia?
HG: I think we do a little bit of that. Sometimes Matt emails me the lyrics of his songs and says, “Can you make sure everything’s fine?”
MP: The “heresy free” seal of approval (laughter).
For our worship team, it’s relatively recent—only this year—that we’ve done more collaboration, and it’s because Homero drew our attention to songwriting. We always knew that Homero would be pleased if we wrote new songs, but he never asked us, “Would you please do that this year?” So we’ve taken that as a challenge.
At a practical level, the other worship leaders, Ulysses and Natalie, have opened their house to the whole worship team on occasion and said, “Hey guys! Tonight we’re going to get together and write songs. Anyone can just come over. So they did that a couple of times.
With the whole pandemic, that’s been less comfortable to do. But I went to their house in the middle of summer when the pandemic had let up a little, and it was great. They helped me finish a song that I had been writing for seven years! We sing that one now at church.
Also, I came to the conclusion that maybe what we need to do is spend rehearsal time to help us in writing songs together. Let someone bring what they have, and let’s see if we can play it—see how it works. Does someone have a suggestion, a question, an idea? So we actually did that last week. One of the women has eight songs that she’s working on! She let us in on two of them and it was great! We also worked on a song that I started at the January 9th UA creative session; it’s just about ready. I’ll send the lyrics to Homero to get that “heresy-free” stamp pretty soon (laughter).
I said to my son and daughter who are on my worship team, “I wish we had the rule that we won’t learn any new songs until we write our own new song and learn that one.” So I decided to lead that by example and see how it works—see if the other worship teams want to jump onboard with that idea.
KK: Have there been other influences on the collaboration at La Iglesia?
I really appreciate United Adoration for providing a space for collaboration. It’s encouraging to know that there’s one person who says, “I’m really curious to see how you develop this song and where you want to take it.” Who knows, maybe they only said that to be nice. But at least there is someone who is expressing they care. So during the Creative Session when I’m working on my own, I’m thinking, “When am I going to have some time to show somebody on the UA Slack page what I have done—somebody who can give me feedback and help me to make this song better?”
This last creative session on January 9th, I was trying to write something that Saturday morning. I couldn’t think of any words; I didn’t feel particularly creative. But because we were going to be meeting again, I thought, “I’ve got to have something, even if it’s just a D chord and an A chord back and forth. So I’ll have some simple, up-tempo thing.” I had no idea what the song was about. We had about 45 minutes left and I asked my son, Aidan, “Can you come and help me with this song right now?” “Sure, Dad!” So there I was with just a few minutes left, teaching him the song. He’s an amazing musician, so right away he was picking it up, playing it on his keyboard and typing in the drum tracks. It was a simple song—no intro, no ending, just a chorus without any words.
When we finished I thought, “Phew! I like that! That’s not too bad considering I had nothing three hours ago.” So I posted the song on the Slack channel and told the UA group, “I don’t know what this song is about. I have no words. I don’t know if it’s any good. But if anyone has any ideas, let me know.”
Later, (UA Staff member) Elise Massa responded on the UA Slack channel and said, “This is great! I just hear the congregation singing, “You are here!’” When I read that, I actually felt like I was going to cry. That IS what this song is about, and I didn’t even know until that moment. I’m excited to keep working on this song to get something more presentable than what I had that day. We have some words now, so it’s in process.
That’s the power of collaboration: it comes back to the fact that there’s somebody who cares. And I’ve tried to do the same thing, then—follow that example and give some of the same kind of positive comments and input from my perspective for the other people who are present.
KK: God bless you guys! Thanks for spending this time. I know you’re both quite busy, so I really appreciate it.
You’re invited to join us as we have lots more conversations like this one at United Adoration’s first annual conference, October 7-9, 2021. Our theme will be “Building Healthy Creative Communities in Your Church.”
Also, if you’d like to experience the benefits of artistic collaboration that Matthew mentioned here, the next United Adoration online Creative Session will be held Saturday, March 13th.