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Articles

Evangelism Through Music

01.16.20 | Latino/Hispanic , Services, Music

Evangelism Through Music

    At the 1 o’clock bilingual service on Sundays, a trio of musicians known as Mendeliz accompanies worship for the Spanish-speaking congregation, providing liturgical music that’s joyful, soulful, and meditative.

    Their musical presence at church has been instrumental, so to speak, with growing the community that attends the weekly worship, says the Rev. Simón Bautista Betances. They also play an important role in Episcopal evangelism, he says, by representing Christ Church Cathedral when performing in Latino and other neighborhoods around Houston.

    Mendeliz is comprised of musicians Alfredo Mendez Peimbert, the keyboardist/songwriter who leads the band; vocalist Liliana Elizondo, who also plays percussion; and vocalist Manuel Noe.

    Each also performs professionally in both religious and secular settings and at events.

    At the Cathedral, the musicians are known for honoring the lyrics but enlivening traditional hymns and music, Bautista says. The trio’s versions tend to change up the tempo and tones (as in “louder and faster,” he says), adapting the traditional music to the Cathedral’s community. And they have expanded the tried-and-true collection with original works.

    Earlier this year, for example, Mendeliz launched its first CD, “Cristo: Vive en Ti” (Christ Lives in You). Elizondo calls the compilation of nine original songs “positive in their spiritual expression” and in styles ranging from ballad to cumbia.

    Bautista says the CD was produced with support from the Cathedral “in acknowledgement and appreciation of their talent and their contribution to this ministry.”

    Recently, all nine songs were accepted for use in a new hymnal under development by the Latino Ministries of the Episcopal Church, Bautista says. “This means a lot because it indicates how the group is contributing not only to the Cathedral but to the Episcopal Church in general.”

    The new works also reflect how the musicians have been growing in their understanding of Episcopal liturgy and sacred music since beginning their affiliation with the Cathedral, he says. And also in their faith; they have been received into the Episcopal Church at-large and the Cathedral.

    Mendez-Peimbert wrote most of the pieces, with his colleagues weighing in on structure and melody, Elizondo explains. Other compositions are in the works for a second CD now under development.

    He says God gave him the opportunity to make music and that he draw inspiration everywhere, “from a bird that feeds, to flowers, a new dawn, the moon, the stars, the sun, to children who devoutly learn the word of God.”

    Banding Together

    Mendez-Piembert grew up in a family of musicians and began his formal music studies at age 8. “I had the opportunity to choose between several instruments and fell in love with the piano,” he recalls.

    He composes a range of music but says “music dedicated to God fills my soul.”

    The band’s participation in Cathedral services has greatly affected and moved him: “It has made me more aware of the needs of others,” he says. “It has sensitized my soul and my values; I believe that today I am a much better person than five years ago. I arrived at the Cathedral on the recommendation of a very dear friend who told me that if I liked going to church, there was need for someone to play every Sunday in the bilingual service.”

    So he has.

    Elizondo had performed with him as part of the duo Lili and Freddie when he invited her to join him on Sundays at the service. The band name is a combination of their surnames.

    A teacher and mother of three, Elizondo says her songwriting is inspired by what she observes in those around her. Many people have touched her heart with what they are experiencing, she says. “I feel a responsibility to write what is positive for the soul and mind.

    “Sometimes the melody comes first, sometimes it’s the lyrics,” she says of her process, which includes keeping a notebook for ideas and snippets that come to her. “I love touching people’s hearts with something that makes them think about God.”

    Noe, who has performed since he was five, was invited to join the duo at the service after he filled in for a previous band member. He says he really enjoyed the environment. “The way the congregation welcomed me really made me feel at peace,” he says.

    Although the musicians accompany services, they also readily mingle at the receptions that follow worship. “They have become part of the community, Bautista says.

    MUSIC’S MANY PURPOSES

    Religious music is more than a worship accompaniment, Bautista says. ”It’s a powerful tool that elevates the spirit and connects worshippers.”

    What – and how -- Mendeliz plays, however, also connects worshippers to the music traditions of their communities, he says.

    “We make music for the world,” Elizondo says. “Music breaks barriers.”

    The Cathedral’s congregation has an opportunity to hear Mendeliz every Sunday at the 1 o’clock service. In December, the musicians will accompany Las Posadas, held December 16-24 in a variety of parishioner neighborhoods.

    Each of the nine evening processions dramatize the journey to Bethlehem by Mary and Joseph. The Advent tradition is hosted by the Cathedral’s Spanish-speaking congregation and shared with all who’d like to experience the spiritual, cultural and community observance.

    Elizondo says the group will vary the songs each evening but likely will include their most popular piece, a ballad entitled “Llévanos de tu Mano,” (Take Us by the Hand).

    For the Cathedral’s 2019 Las Posadas locations for each night, please contact Sylvia García at or 713-590-3329.