Worship for the French universe
Matthieu Nantel had composed three verses to a worship song, but a chorus wasn’t coming together. Fellow church music team member Mélodie Després had written a chorus, but didn’t have any verses. Over the next year, the two musicians married their lyrics, ther talents (into a band called Divum) – and each other. Some 10 years later, their shared dream of music ministry has born a child with the release of their first album, “Dieu de L’univers” (God of the universe). The album’s 10 original tracks include that co-written song “Qu’avez vous fait?” (What have you done).
With support from their church, L’Intersection, Terrebonne, Que., Nantel and Després took a leap of faith this year to move full-time into the ministry of advancing French-language worship music.
L’Intersection provides administrative support, hosting information about the French language worship music development ministry on their website and channelling donations. The church has also assembled a team of advisors to give accountability and counsel.
The journey to release their album has taken much longer than expected, but the timing has been perfect. “God is doing something in the French worship community,” says Nantel. “There’s a will to do something; people want to express themselves in French.… People want to be partners, to do stuff together.”
Nantel and Després have a vision to be an instrumental part of that movement by recording, producing, and distributing original French-language worship music.
Desire to serve French worshippers
Born into the Nantel Music store family, Nantel was raised on music. He started piano lessons at five, studied violin in elementary school, learned guitar as an adolescent, and acquired training and experience in composition and recording. Després took voice lessons and began to lead singing in church at 17.
After a time of questioning and wandering away from church, Nantel recommitted his life to Christ and threw himself into serving on a worship team in 2001. “I quickly discovered that praise and worship songs in French are unexceptional and practically non-existent,” he says.
A French congregation’s main avenue to expand contemporary worship repertoire is translation from English. But these versions “often lose the meaning and poetry of the lyrics,” says Nantel, and from church to church, people sing different translations of the same tunes. Furthermore, there were no resources to search by theme for worship music.
“It was in the midst of these challenges that God planted in my heart this desire to help provide worship resources for French speakers,” says Nantel.
In 2004, he created a website, conducteurdelouange.com (“worship leader”), containing a searchable database of French songs (with music and lyrics purchasable individually), articles on worship leading and music score downloads for individual songs. Initially intended to resource his local church, the site now receives more than 25,000 unique hits per month from around the world.
Working at his father’s store, Nantel was getting more involved in music, and the ministry dream began to draw closer to reality. After leading congregational worship at the annual MB rally in 2011, Nantel and Després began to publicly ask for prayer for Divum’s album project and their desire to create a ministry.
To their surprise, a business person offered to donate $2.50 for every dollar Divum raised toward their goal in two months’ time. This financing allowed them to invest in studio equipment and purchase recording software. “For us, this was confirmation that it was God’s will for us to continue to work on this project,” says Nantel.
It was becoming increasingly difficult for Nantel to juggle work at the store (providing financially for his family including three, soon-to-be-four children) and his work on the album (building the ministry to which he felt called).
“After a long time in prayer,… God showed me that my place was in ministry, and to do the work well, I had to work at it full time,” says Nantel. In 2013, he quit his work at the store (except for one day a week), a difficult ending for his father who’d planned for his son to succeed him. “It was a big leap of faith for us, but God provided extraordinarily during that time,” he says.
With Divum’s CD finished and launched in a special morning service at L’Intersection, Nov. 17, 2013, “we are in transition,” says Nantel. “We are waiting for God to show next steps, for how this ministry will take effect.”
Prayful church is instrumental
Throughout the process, “the church and our home group have played a big role,” says Nantel. “The whole CD would not have been possible without them.”
“Matthieu and Mélodie already had their vision and the ability musically to make it happen [when they came to L’Intersection in 2010],” says pastor David Miller, “but we gave them a platform to talk about it, to share it in church, so it became not just their thing but ours.”
And while the congregation supported and prayed for Divum (Latin for divine, revelation) as they stepped out in faith, taking personal and financial risks to develop this ministry, members were challenged.
“We had people watching what they were experiencing, and saying ‘Wow, I want to grow in my own relationship with God because of what I’m seeing in your life,’” says Miller. Before the launch party, “two guys in the small group spent a lot of time praying during the night…. It was a pretty special thing.”