Chris Vacher On WorshipRises, The National Songwriting Movement

by Bobby Gilles

in Interviews,Songwriting/Hymn Workshop,Worship Leading

Chris Vacher is more popularly known in many online circles as Chris From Canada, from his blog Chris is Director of Worship at Orangeville Baptist Church near Toronto. Not long ago God gave Chris a passion for seeing Canadian worship pastors and songwriters rise up to create original songs for worship. This passion gave birth to the fast growing movement WorshipRises.

You can get the premier Worship Rises EP on iTunes (USA|Canada),, Bandcamp and other digital platforms. These songs are the first fruits of this worship songwriting network.

In this latest chapter in the My Song In The Night interview series, learn how Chris and fellow Canadian worship pastors started and nurtured WorshipRises, and what they continue to do in this burgeoning movement. Perhaps leaders in other parts of the world will learn from WorshipRises, and instill a like-minded desire in songwriters from every every tribe and tongue.

Bobby Gilles: What gave you the idea for Worship Rises?

Chris Vacher: It really came out of a healthy frustration. I was seeing, hearing and playing all these great songs from the US, the UK and Australia but not seeing songs of the same calibre coming out of the Canadian church as a whole. I know how talented Canadian worship leaders are and how many great songwriters we have so I just wanted to be part of creating some kind of platform for songs to be written and shared.

Bobby Gilles: The “finished product” to this point is the Worship Rises EP. Can you tell us what went into that? How did you arrive at those four songs, and what other fruit has this movement yielded so far?

Chris Vacher: Yes, one of the products we’ve put out is the EP which we released last summer. Those songs came out of our first few songwriting days. Since May 2009 we’ve run 15 songwriting days right across Canada and had close to 200 worship songwriters participate. We’ve seen songs from our writing days being sung in over 100 churches and some have been recorded as part of worship records done by artists or local churches.

There’s also been an incredible amount of relational fruit produced by WorshipRises. We weren’t really looking to create a relationship network for Canadian worship leaders but that is exactly what’s happened. Those relationships are having an incredible impact for individual worship leaders as well as for regional networks and gatherings.

Bobby Gilles: What are some of the ways in which you reached out to Canadian worship pastors, directors and songwriters?

Chris Vacher: It started out by just talking to my friends who live near me. Our first songwriting day was 12 of us at a church in southern Ontario. We had no idea if it would work. It did, so we tried it again. The third time we began to expand our network and efforts through email and social media.

When it came time to release the EP, we relied heavily on social media because our marketing budget was very low. In fact, it could not have been lower! So we turned to Twitter and Facebook to help get the word out on the EP release.

We’ve now got a network of Canadian worship leaders connected through Twitter, Facebook, blogs and email.

Bobby Gilles: Did you nurture and equip those who wanted to write new songs for the Canadian church, or was/is your role more to collect, curate and promote content from those who are already accomplished worship songwriters?

Chris Vacher: This has been a genuine struggle for me and I’ve had lots of discussions about it. We have gone back and forth between having events which are “wide open” and can be attended by everyone all the way to invite-only songwriting sessions which we don’t promote publicly. I think there is a place for younger, newer songwriters to sit in a room and write with more experienced guys. At the same time, better writers working together tend to produce better songs.

I think for me, at this point, I see great value in providing opportunities for songwriters to improve in their craft, wherever they are at in terms of skill. (And I say this recognizing that I am nowhere near an expert and should barely be called a songwriter at all!)

Bobby Gilles: Is this a pretty ecumenical movement or are most of the leaders involved from one or two denominations or theological movements?

Chris Vacher: Very broad base and that has been very exciting for me. One of our biggest events was in the spring of 2010 and to me it was a beautiful picture of the Canadian church gathered together in one room – young, old, men, women, white, black, hispanic, conservative, charismatic. It was actually pretty moving.

We’ve had people from every major denominational stream in Canada participate in some way in WorshipRises. That is very exciting to me.

Bobby Gilles: With so many people involved, how did you decide which songs to put on the initial record? What were you looking for, in terms of theology, musical styles and other categories?

Chris Vacher: We had several considerations and the decision on which songs to include was done by a smaller group of people who have been involved from the very beginning.

Of course we wanted songs to be not only theologically correct but expressing theology in a way which would be accessible by our congregations. We are always hoping to write songs the church will actually sing. Part of the beauty of WorshipRises is that we are all local church worship leaders/pastors so we have a very good sense of the kinds of songs our churches will sing. We can also test drive these songs in our own churches before deciding to record and release them.

Bobby Gilles: The title cut, “Worship Rises,” is a collaboration between you and Joshua Seller. What did that look like? Did you write it together in person, or over emails, Skype or other long-distance means? What ideas did each of you bring to the song?

Chris Vacher: “Worship Rises” was written at our very first songwriting event. Joshua pulled out his phone and played a recording of him singing the chorus as he was driving to the church. (I’m in no way suggesting that Joshua was on his phone as he was driving. I’m sure he was pulled off safely to the side of the road!) I remember Joshua saying that he was praying as he was on his way that our time together would be all about glorifying the Lord, offering prayers of praise to Him, that worship would rise up all over our country as people began to sing these songs.

We put the chorus together, wrote the framework for the verses, and had two different bridge ideas by the time our two-hour songwriting session was finished. I know we did some editing afterwards over email but for the most part the song was finished that day.

We have seen other co-writers work on songs by email and Skype. We’ve even had people included in our songwriting events over Skype when they weren’t able to be there in person. We only have their disembodied head on a laptop screen and we carry them around the building to where they need to be.

Bobby Gilles: You wrote on your blog that you hosted three “Writing Days.” What did those days look like, in terms of schedule and format?

Chris Vacher: Our songwriting days have happened all across Canada and normally run from about 8:30 until 3:30. The day is packed very full.

We start our day with scripture and prayer. We spend time reading what God says about worship, praying for the Canadian church and that our time together would have an impact. This is a significant time for us.

We then break into groups of three and write for about an hour and 45 minutes. Usually the group of three has never written before and often they are meeting for the very first time so we encourage people to take time to introduce themselves, talk about their church and why they are at our songwriting day.

We are big on collaboration so our songwriting sessions are not about finishing someone’s idea but instead working together to come up with an idea for a song, an initial direction and a framework. Nobody expects a song to be written beginning to end in under 2 hours but these groups aren’t the place for you to bring your almost finished song and lay it on the table.

After the session is up, all of the groups come back together and we play what we’ve got so far. This is pretty intimidating but the groups will recognize immediately if there is a song that has potential or not. It can actually be very encouraging for the writing groups to get immediate feedback from the rest of the room and help them in their editing and re-writing.

After a long lunch and coffee break, we come back for our second writing session. Normally we switch up the groups so that you are in a writing room with two new people and the process starts again. Introduce yourselves, decide on a direction for a song and work through some ideas. After a couple of hours, come back to the room and everyone shares what they’ve got.

Bobby Gilles: What is next for WorshipRises? What is “mission accomplished?”

Chris Vacher: What’s next is continuing to work together to develop worship resources for & from the Canadian church. The beauty of a mandate like that is the form is very flexible. We aren’t an event-driven organization, although we have used events in the past to help reach our goal. The heart to develop resources means it can take all kinds of forms.

One thing we are doing next is putting together a training conference for tech volunteers at smaller churches in Ontario. This isn’t about songwriting or worship leading exactly but tech volunteers have a huge role to play when it comes to facilitating the worship experience on Sunday morning. Our team has been working really hard to put together a training conference which will be focused on helping tech volunteers in areas of audio, video, lighting and staging in a way that is genuinely helpful.

Mission accomplished? In the big picture, the spirit of WorshipRises will always go on. I hope and pray I’m always excited about seeing worship leaders digging in to their local context to write and share songs. Hopefully I’m always excited about seeing fellow Canadian worship leaders recognized for their ability and the opportunities they have to lead others in worship.

We are looking at more songwriting events, more ways that we can connect Canadian worship leaders from coast-to-coast and more ways that we can genuinely serve, train and equip the ones who are serving in our churches.


Chris February 20, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Thanks for the interview, Bobby. We are not experts but we are a community of people committed to the same kinds of things. I’m thankful for the friends who have been a part of WorshipRises and believed that developing worship resources for & from the Canadian church is a meaningful way to spend their time.

Bobby Gilles February 21, 2012 at 8:25 pm

You’re welcome, Chris! I love what you all are doing. A part of me even wishes I was a Canadian. (This doesn’t mean I don’t love the red, white and blue, U.S. residents 🙂

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