In 1984, three men – Kirk Lyons, Kevin Stevens and myself – sat down one evening and discussed the plight of gospel instrumentalists and singers.
All three of us had been musicians in the secular realm prior to becoming Christians. We talked about how there was a great discrepancy between compensation from the clubs and compensation from the church.
We realized that something needed to be done to help church musicians to exercise their gifts and talents while also enjoying monetary benefits.
Since we were Local 802 members, we attempted to educate union officials about the plight of gospel musicians.
In many of the meetings we held, there were tears in the eyes of grown men and women as we shared our experiences in churches, conventions, and other religious services about the amount of money being raised in offerings for musicians.
We were used to receiving little or nothing in return for our playing or singing. We had been providing services ranging from a single evening to a week’s worth of work.
If an offering was raised for instrumentalists or singers, there was no compelling language similar to that which was used to raise the offering to pay for the speakers.
Or, in the words of Pedro Rodriguez, “They take up a love offering, only to find out nobody loves you.”
Despite our efforts, the union representatives we were working with did not understand the sensitivity of the situation.
For example, one union rep used to work for the UAW. He wanted to use traditional union tactics and “strong arm” the church somewhat.
So the Gospel Musicians’ Committee – as we called ourselves – lay dormant until September 1988 when Pedro Rodriguez and Leslie Wilkins discovered the file and decided to resurrect it.
With their hard work and the hard work of the committee members themselves, we were able to make the Gospel Musicians’ Committee a viable and integral part of Local 802.
Pedro and Leslie were able to secure numerous union contracts for Gospel Musicians’ Committee members, including steady, casual and traveling agreements.
And anyone who was involved would never forget those great Christmas jams.
Unfortunately, we lost our beloved Pedro Rodriguez in 2006 when he transitioned to a greater rest. We all miss him dearly. At the same time, we are grateful to God that we still have Leslie Wilkins with us.
The work of the Gospel Musicians’ Committee of Local 802 is not over, not by a long shot.
We celebrate the history of the Gospel Musicians’ Committee, not see it become history.
For more information on the Gospel Musicians’ Committee, e-mail Weldon Cochren at firstname.lastname@example.org.