Meet Your Urbana 22 Worship Director: Imer Santiago
“We say no to other things to say yes to Urbana,” says Imer Santiago, the Worship Director of this year’s Urbana Student Missions Conference. Next month, he’ll lead thousands of students in multicultural musical worship in Indianapolis.
When we met over video call, closing the distance between Madison, Wisconsin, and Orlando, Florida, he shared with me his Urbana journey—an adventure that has come full circle since God began orchestrating it more than 20 years ago.
Imer’s Urbana Journey
Imer’s first Urbana was in 2000. He was a recent college graduate, sitting among the crowd of thousands of students and other recent grads from across the nation and the world.
“It really shaped who I am,” he says. “Even if a person shows up [to Urbana] for just one day, God can change their life.” It was at this Urbana that Imer realized that there were other communities he could learn from. Since then, he’s spent three other Urbanas onstage, singing and playing the trumpet, where he’s even played his own original music at two of them.
A Multicultural Worship Vision for Urbana 22
As worship director, Imer not only gives shape to the song list used for the conference, but he also forms the worship team’s vision for musical worship. He thinks about the Holy Spirit, the day of Pentecost, and the young and vibrant multiethnic church in Acts. This is the compass he followed when he gathered musicians from all over to be a part of the team.
From auditions in January to rehearsals in May, Imer feels that the worship team is now a family that has come together to give glory to God and serve at Urbana. They now have shared experiences and deep relationships.
“It’s been fulfilling to see the repertoire together knowing that there are songs that are from different countries and continents,” Imer says. He asked his team to share the songs that speak to them, as people from different cultural and denominational backgrounds.
The songs this year are a combination of songs that align with the book of Acts (which attendees will study together at Urbana), hymns that have resonated with InterVarsity staff, and original music that was written based on the conference theme, Rise Up. Imer wants the worship to represent God’s people from all around the world since Urbana is a conference that shows the grandness of our God through the diversity of the global Church.
The worship team will be a part of shaping attendees’ Urbana experience, and Imer is most excited about helping a new generation of students and staff who have never been to Urbana grow in love with what Urbana is. Although this is both a challenge and a responsibility, above all, he calls it an honor.
Listen to the Urbana 22 Spotify playlist here. And if you haven’t yet, register for Urbana at urbana.org/register.
Last-minute final papers, weekly discussion posts, and 12-page reports that seem to extend forever—don’t worry, I know the feeling too. For those of us who are students (and some of us who aren’t as well), there are some days—maybe even many days—when writing feels like a chore, something on a checklist to cross off.