Top Christian Artists Write Songs to Benefit Poor Countries

Top Christian music artists who gathered for a retreat in Scotland this week to compose songs for charity are surprised yet exhilarated that they have written almost double the number of songs they initially set as a goal.

The plan for the Compassionart songwriter's retreat was to gather internationally recognized songwriters – including Martin Smith of Delirious?, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman and Darlene Zschech – and write 10-12 songs to raise money for those suffering in the poorest countries.

Songwriters participating in the historic gathering, which began Jan. 7 and ended Friday, are amazed at the achievement. Through small break-up teams, the talented group cumulatively produced over 21 strong songs, according to Delirious? frontman Smith, who founded Compassionart.

"We've done it. We just need to record these songs now. It's been awesome," Smith said on the band's website Friday. "I'm proud, in awe, exhilarated and tired. Good days, great days."

He compared the retreat as one of the times in "history when people join together to do something great and lay down their own agenda, their own territory."

"Unbelievable" was the word Michael W. Smith used to describe the experience. Although some of them had written songs together before, it was the first time they did it together with dozens of award-winning artists.

"It's been especially touching to see everyone be themselves and be vulnerable in front of each other. Yet when a group plays its song, the whole room erupts. It's just pure Christianity. It's a team thing of people lifting each other up," said the three-time Grammy Award winner and American Music Award recipient.

"It's incredible to be working with all of these artists for a worthy cause. Laying down your own agenda really frees you in so many ways, and this week has been a pure joy," he added.

In addition to putting aside record label affiliations, the Christian music artists also waived their claims to royalties from the songs and copyrights to the songs.

All proceeds derived from the songs written during the retreat will go directly to charity. Half will go to the charity of the songwriters' choice and the other half will go toward a charitable program later to be selected by the songwriters.

Royalties will go directly to copyright holder Compassionart – based in Littlehampton, England – which will then distribute the money to the charities of choice.

Other participating artists were Paul Baloche, Stu Garrard (Delirious?), Israel Houghton, Tim Hughes, Graham Kendrick, Andy Park and Matt Redman.

Chris Tomlin, who canceled plans to attend due to a short-term illness, called on Wednesday to express his disappointment for not making the retreat but said he was "excited" to hear about the event's fruits.

Renowned Christian speaker Joyce Meyer had joined gathering, leading a morning devotional.

Baloche, author of the worship favorite "Open the Eyes of My Heart," said one of the most memorable aspects of the retreat was the deep friendships he formed.

"I can't even tell you how rewarding it was to hang out people who really get you and what you're about," he said.

"It's a great way to start a new year, that's for sure. That deep connection has made all the difference in collaborating together."

On the Web: More on Compassionart at  www.compassionart.co.uk.