What is a weekend UA songwriting retreat?
By Craig Duer
If you have been wondering if you should step out and attend a United Adoration event please read on… I attended an event in Detroit, Michigan in the winter of 2019. I had mixed emotions and thoughts as I wondered what the event would be like and, even more so, what would it do for me. Let me tell you, it exceeded my expectations and propelled me forward not only in my songwriting, but also in my walk with Christ.
I am a classically trained musician with a music performance degree from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. I only said that to make sure to ground myself as a buckeye before I went any further with this blog. (O-H-I-O) No, joking aside, I decided to go with my wife, Penny, and had some pretty extreme demands on myself and the Lord concerning my attendance. First of all, I knew I was putting my wife in an area she had no background…songwriting. Being a bit apprehensive about that, I myself had written songs for the church for years but had backed off due to many reasons and just wanted a fresh breath in that area of my life. I had always loved writing for the church but had gotten away from the process of writing and the desire to write. I didn’t even know if anything would come out anymore! I was very skeptical of what I might produce. If you notice from my verbiage above, it was all about me and what I would produce and whether my wife would be comfortable through the process. Let me tell you, God showed up and re-defined our purpose for attending!!!!
Friday evening began with a time of fellowship and getting to know one another. We were then divided into groups to write a song based upon a Noun and an Adjective that was given to us by the event staff. My group of three was given the words “Ethereal” and “Cheeseburger”. WHAT!!!!! I thought, “oh great. How is this going to work?” Well, we got together and one lady began to play the piano and here it came… A song from words that I didn’t even know might go together. My mind was open like never before. I thought, “if you are going to do this for me, God, about a song concerning a cheeseburger, I can’t wait to see what he will do when we sit down to write songs about him!” The event that night was fun and we all enjoyed each other’s crazy songs and serious songs as well. Oh, did I tell you we only had 7 minutes to compose this song? Wowza!!! The rest of the evening was to get started on the songwriting process for the weekend. My wife and I paired up for the rest of the evening.
So here we are at Saturday morning. My wife and I stayed at a nearby motel and didn’t get to sleep until late after processing the evening’s event. I think our biggest take-away from the evening was just the wide variety of songwriters who were attending the event. There were kids, age 14, all the way up to adults, age 66. It was such a cool thing to see so many facets of age with the same desire to press in and see God work through the gift He gave them. I digress, Saturday morning opens with an awesome time of worship to the Lord. All of us from different churches and denominations all entering into worship together. What a cool experience. After our time of worship we had some instruction as to what the day was going to look like. We all received a packet of scriptures, poems, Hymn lyrics, etc., all focused around the topic of Easter. The packet was to be used as a stepping-off ground for our writing. The concept of the UA retreat was to write songs that we all could take back to our prospective churches and use during the Easter season or beyond. We also received instruction as to how we were to critique one another’s song: gently and lovingly. This was an awesome time to hear this, as we then all scattered to write and we knew that whatever God did through us, it would be listened to with love. We could create without the thought that someone may put us down or tear apart the song we wrote. So off we go…
My wife and I paired up for the day again, which was awesome. It was sweet for me due to the fact that my wife and I had never written a song together before. Why, you ask? We have only been in ministry together since 1990. Good question… more on that in another blog. So the event folks had set up many different areas for people to write. Some had pianos and some were for the guitar folks. Some didn’t need either, as they were writing their music in their computers. This was cool for me to see and I will speak to that later in the blog. My wife and I began with a chorus we had started the night before. During the night I had a melody pop in my head so we started with that and wrote the chorus. I could see my fears that I had felt for my wife’s comfort slowly disappear as the excitement grew for what God was going to do through us. I also was encouraged to see God use me again in the songwriting arena. We developed a chorus and part of a verse during our morning session, but it was now time to share what had transpired with the rest of the folks in attendance at the first SongShare. All went well and we received some great counsel and ideas that we worked on in our next session. It was awesome to see all the different styles and ideas that came out of the short morning writing session from all the attendees. At lunch time they provided lunch for us, tacos, and they were awesome. They were very accommodating to all the folks’ dietary needs which was a wonderful thing to experience. More creative sessions to go…….
Lunch is over and time for a nap. We only wished that… it was back to writing. During our afternoon session my wife and I were able to finish up our song and try to get it to as close of a finished product as possible. As we all discussed later, songs usually will continue to finish themselves as time goes on. We came back from the session and shared our song with the group along with all the others. It was cool to see how everyone was at a different level with their songs. Some were still working on lyrics, some just on format, and some only had a few measures written. The awesome thing about it all was the fact that it was ALL GOOD.
As we listened to all the music it was great to hear so many different styles. Now to the computer music… I was thoroughly encouraged when I heard the beginning of a song written by a brother and sister (yes the 14 year old age group) on their computers. At first I was amazed at the complexity of what they had started, but most of all, just like the other folks, our styles were so different that we could all reach a different group of people. My music may not reach the people that the electronic music would. What a gift that God gave us all to further his work in all areas of this world.
During the last session my wife and I split up and decided to connect with different folks to view their process. I spent the afternoon with the computer songwriters. We talked about a lot of things that could be done with that style of music as well as many different ways that we could use technology to help us write. It was a short but great afternoon and probably the highlight of the event. I realized what I had originally wanted from the event was not what God wanted for me and His ways are so much better. We all reconvened and had one last performance of our work from the weekend. Many lives were changed in such a short time, and many friendships were started. God is so Good.
My final take-away from the event…
If you are thinking that this is something you would like to do… GO.
If God is pushing you to one of these events… GO.
If you don’t think you are good enough to go… You are, so….GO.
If you think it is not your cup of tea… GO ANYWAYS!!! You will be blessed!!
Off to write more songs…………..
Craig is a part of United Adoration’s leadership team