I pray…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me, and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.
Dear Greenhouse Family,
Some of Jesus’s final words to us, his church, are a prayer that we may be one, just as Jesus and the Father and the Spirit are one, and that our oneness in God would be a testimony to the world. This is a significant and deep unity that Jesus desires for us and calls us to–and our mission rests upon it.
I write this letter during very difficult times. As the COVID-19 virus continues to cause loss of life and livelihood, we are also facing truths about separations and divisions that still cause us to see people unlike ourselves as “other.” We are a deeply broken people. This country is in deep turmoil.
My word for us, in the midst of this turmoil, is to remember these words of Jesus, to remember that we–the people of God–are called to unity, to oneness, to a love for each other that sees all of us, together, as the people of God. We are not called to be separate, but to be ONE people. This is at the heart of our mission as the Church; it is at the heart of the Greenhouse Movement: that people of different languages, nationalities, cultures, and skin colors live out and proclaim together the gospel of God as one people, as one family.
This month I am writing to you about United Adoration (UA), a movement within Greenhouse that empowers songwriters, artists, and musicians to create music and art for their local church communities. The plan was to tell you the stories of a young Kenyan songwriter named Peace and of Victor in South America. These are wonderful, encouraging stories of God’s work through UA, and I am still sharing them in the video boxes below (along with information about UA’s songwriting retreats), but in the body of this letter, I feel led to focus on why I am so very grateful for the work of United Adoration during this particular time in our country.
In Nairobi, a young woman named Peace arrived at a songwriting retreat carrying great pain because of how her earlier desires to write music had been rejected. Another retreat attendee encouraged her and worked alongside her on a new song. She shared this song at the last day of the retreat, and the other attendees burst into cheers and clapping. Peace went on to record her song and it continues to encourage many, many people.
At a songwriting retreat during a Caminemos Juntos conference in South America, one man, Victor, felt the Spirit had given him a song. The trouble was, Victor isn’t a songwriter or musician. He had come to the retreat to serve as a translator to help musicians speaking different languages to work together. But Victor shared the song in his heart with a musician from Chile, and within ten minutes, “Ven Espiritu” was written! When the worship team introduced it at the conference, the whole congregation began singing it as if it was a familiar song—they broke out in heart worship! “Ven Espiritu” has since spread to congregations throughout the Americas.
United Adoration, even in its name, carries the desire for oneness that Jesus calls us to, that Jesus prayed over us. United Adoration’s very pulse is the belief that when we worship together and write songs of worship across barriers of difference–no matter what those differences are–we are drawn into unity, into the family oneness Jesus desires for us. On Easter Sunday UA released a new, bilingual song. “Let’s Worship Together/Adoremos Juntos” was first written during a retreat in Argentina in 2018. Leaders from the U.S., Mexico, and Argentina wrote the song first in Spanish; then, in April of this year, 2020, two pastors from the U.S.–one white, one African American–translated the song into English, and it was sung by two Latino youth in Chicago as part of a diocesan-wide Easter celebration.
God’s mission for the world demands that we be unified, that we love each other, that we care for each other, that we grieve and sorrow with one another, even when we do not face the same sorrows personally. I am so very thankful for the heartbeat and work of United Adoration and its insistence on our unity. This pleases our Father.
Please join me in continued prayer for our nation and for the Church,
United Adoration has hosted songwriting and worship arts retreats in cities across the U.S. and in Africa, South America, and Europe. UA movement leader Dave Frincke says, “Our retreats are designed to be sacred spaces where the Holy Spirit is invited to release creativity and care for the soul of the artists. In the midst of this we are able to train local leaders to develop ongoing artistic collaboration, encouragement, and unity among churches and movements in their city.”
UA has had to postpone in-person retreat, but has developed dynamic online communities for artists. In the last few months, 140 artists have connected to create songs and art for their local communities. This has laid the groundwork for continued expansion around the world. Check out their retreat page and see if you would be interested in attending yourself.