By Kathryn Kircher, United Adoration Staff
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with our friends Pastor Homero Garcia and Matthew Pelletier about what it looks like at their church, La Iglesia in Mundelein, Illinois, to encourage artistic expressions of worship. This is the first in a series of excerpts from that interview.
KK: A while back, Homero, you encouraged the musicians at La Iglesia to write new songs for worship. Why is that on your heart? Why is that part of your dream for La Iglesia?
HG: For a number of reasons. Reason #1 is Ephesians chapter 4 which says that as a pastor, my job is to coach my people, to train them, to identify their gifts and talents, to bless those gifts and talents, to encourage them to grow in those gifts and talents, and to stretch them a little bit, too.
Reason #2 is because I see in the Bible that God likes new songs. You read in Psalm 40:3, for example, “The Lord put a new song in my mouth.” There’s this theme about a new song in the Bible, over and over again.
I thank God for all the songs that we sing on Sundays. They’re great. They bless my life. But we need to create new songs very frequently. Why wait for other churches or organizations to write more new songs? Why can’t we start our own new songs?
Which leads me to Reason #3: How about if we write new songs from our heart, in our own context? Each one of us, each of our churches lives a different reality, in a different context. We have different needs, different problems, different issues. We worship in different ways, different styles, and with different rhythms. So we want to create our own songs, while at the same time embracing others’. We enrich the Body of Christ when we do that.
K: Matthew, how has Homero’s request for new songs impacted you?
M: It’s really empowering when somebody cares; even if there’s just one person, that can be enough. A lot of times you might have that little itch to write a song, but if you think nobody cares, you’d really have to want to do it just for the discipline of it—because you’ve somehow decided internally to do it. But when your spiritual authority, your pastor, your friend, says, “I want this to be in the church. Our church needs this,” you feel empowered.
And there are plenty of other things that can be barriers to songwriting. For example, I think a lot of times composers tend to be really humble. We’re trying to write for the Lord, and we don’t want ego to get in the way. We don’t want to give the impression that we’re trying to start a musical career or be some well-known person. We don’t want to be promoting ourselves. Those who have a humble attitude might have all these hesitations about trying to write our own song.
Then you think in your own mind, “The congregation just wants to sing the popular songs, the songs they already know—the ones they might hear on YouTube or somewhere else. They don’t want to hear my Podunk, goofy little songs that are only half-baked, not professionally recorded. Nobody wants to sing those.”
Another part of it is that we get used to learning a new song by analyzing and listening to someone else’s arrangement. You look up YouTube videos about how to do one thing or another. You listen to different versions. And maybe, as in our case, you’re trying to interpret something into Spanish for the “latest and greatest” from one of the big names out there. We become accustomed to that—just listening and copying what others have done.
Here’s something else that could keep us from writing new songs for worship. Now that we’re starting to do some of our own songs, it’s hard because we don’t want to sing something that we know could be better. But it’s a lot of work because you have to dream up the arrangement on your own: the intros, the outros, the bridges, how many beats here, how many beats there, do you go up or down. There are all those details, but you have no model to go from, so it takes a lot more effort.
As a songwriter, all these thoughts are going through your mind. So without the encouragement of your pastor, they might just take over, and your worship songs stay unwritten.
Pastor Homero and Matt had lots more to share about how they collaborate to encourage the worship arts at La Iglesia. Look for Part II next week on the blog!