Bound by worship, CityWorship song leader Renata Triani and her husband Daniel Munthe share their story of how they met, what they’ve been through and why they serve.
For 10 years, Renata Triani was a constant presence on the stage of City Harvest Church. The deep, husky voice of this CityWorship song leader has led the congregation into the presence of God countless times. She was absent from stage for a season earlier this year because she and her husband Daniel Duhamel Munthe had a baby girl in February.
Both Indonesians, Daniel and Renata have been serving in CityWorship since they were students—in fact, they met each other while serving in the ministry.
Growing up in Indonesia, Daniel was a natural when it came to music—he started learning classical piano at the age of 4, and picked up drums, bass and guitar at 14. In his senior high years, he started serving in the music ministry at GBI Medan. In 2007, he moved to Singapore for his studies and started serving in the church that he was attending then. There, he was offered the opportunity to serve in different capacities, including drummer, keyboardist, bassist, guitarist, worship leader and music trainer.
In time, Daniel joined City Harvest Church and was introduced to the CityWorship team. He passed the audition for the role of drummer and was subsequently scheduled to serve in the 2017 Emerge Conference where he met Renata.
In 2006, Renata came to Singapore from Indonesia to begin her university education at Nanyang Technological University. There, a group of seniors reached out to her and invited her to CHC.
“The first service I attended, Pastor Mike Connell was preaching,” she recalls. Pastor Mike is the founder of Bay City Outreach Centre in Hastings, New Zealand, best known for his gift of moving in the prophetic word, deliverance and inner healing. His meetings are usually rather exciting.
“I got a shock when everyone started speaking in tongues at the end of the service and people around me were manifesting. I wasn’t used to it and started wondering, ‘What is this?’”
After the service, she decided that she was not comfortable with CHC and did not want to return. “I tried to avoid my seniors and even turned off my phone! But they were so persistent and kept reaching out to me!” she remembers.
Their efforts were not in vain. Renata eventually gave her heart to Jesus and started serving in her cell group. Soon, she became a potential cell group leader who was slated to take over the next cell group in 2009. However, Renata had many doubts in her heart. She was worried that she would not be able to lead her members well. “I even went as far as to think, ‘How am I going to answer to God if all my members were to backslide?’”
In March that year, Renata went to an early morning prayer meeting and asked God for direction. She prayed that God would either give her peace for her new role or give her a way out. After the prayer meeting, she went home to Jakarta.
Upon her return, she received an email from Caroline Tjen, a fellow Indonesian and staff member of CHC asking her if she was interested to join the Emerge band. Renata had participated in the Emerge Talent time in 2007 and emerged as champion.
“In Caroline’s email, she explained that Alison Yap, vocal supervisor for CityWorship, remembered me from Emerge 2007 and wanted to know if I was keen to be part of the Emerge Band that would go on mission trips with Pastor Kong,” Renata recalls. Pastor Kong Hee is the senior pastor of CHC.
Of course she said yes. That was God’s answer to her question.
LIFE & LOVE
In 2017, Renata was serving in Emerge when she met Daniel in the band. “He was sitting behind the drums wearing a cap. In my mind, I thought he had to be some young punk who didn’t know how to play the old songs,” she recalls with a laugh. As Daniel was new to the band at the time, he wasn’t used to CHC’s worship style and made a few mistakes at that practice session.
“I didn’t have a good impression of him,” Renata admits.
Even though Daniel was already well-versed in music, it took him a while to get used to the music environment in CHC. “I came from a small Indonesian church in Singapore and CHC has very well-developed technology, in the sense, it has all the systems in place. I had to put in more effort to practice to keep up with the standard of CHC,” he says.
A month later, they were scheduled to serve together again, and this time, Renata’s impression of Daniel changed. “He played a variation to the song ‘You Make Me Brave’ which was really unusual, but it was not a mistake, and it sounded nice. Since then, my impression changed from ‘young punk’ to ‘okay lah’,” she shares.
On his end, Daniel soon became interested in Renata when he decided that it was time he found himself a life partner. “I thought why not Renata? She is Indonesian, so we shared the same language and culture—that’s common ground,” he recalls.
In 2019, he finally decided to make his move. After two dates, he told Renata that he was interested in pursuing a relationship with her and that touched Renata. “It’s a good thing that he made his intentions clear to me instead of leading me on. To me it was a very gentlemanly thing to do—to not make a girl confused,” she says.
They started dating and were married in November 2020. They had their first child Charissa in February this year, and took a break from serving in CityWorship.
THE HEALING POWER OF WORSHIP
The couple shares that each found their personal breakthroughs and healing through worship.
Daniel believes that personal worship in his own prayer closet takes precedence over any other ministry and commitment. He remembers a time during personal worship when God reminded him that he needed to forgive his parents.
He had been disappointed because he felt that his father was not the leader he ought to have been. However, he later found out that his father had been the one leading and guiding the family from behind the scenes while their mother took the lead in front of the children.
Daniel and his mother also suffered a crack in their relationship in 2005, when he was preparing for the national entrance exam to a public university in Indonesia. He had already secured a position in a private university and had told his mother that he did not want to put in effort for the entrance exam for the public university.
“Over the phone, she said to me, ‘Ah, you suck! How come you already lost before the battle has even begun?’” I started crying. I didn’t realise her words had scarred my heart,” Daniel says.
He eventually passed the entrance exam for the public university and studied there for around eight months before moving to Singapore.
He had forgotten all about these things, but God remembers. One night while he was worshipping God with an old song “Hadirat Mu Membawa Kesembuhan Bagiku” (“Your Presence Brings Healing”), God reminded him that he needed to forgive his parents.
“His presence came and cleansed all the dirt from my heart and healed the scars that were there for many years,” Daniel describes. “I immediately crafted a long email and sent it to my mom and asked her also to read it together with my dad. In the email, I asked for forgiveness from God and from them, and also wrote that I forgive them for all they did previously. I ended with a prayer for their well-being. They replied by asking forgiveness from me and also from God, and they spoke words of blessings for me too.”
That brought a breakthrough in Daniel’s walk with God and enabled him to serve on stage. “I immediately felt that it was easier to connect to the song leader or pastor who was leading the song when I played the drums. It felt like all the hindrances I had before were gone.”
For Renata, it was a breakthrough in her own heart. At one worship service in 2018, Renata was leading the song “Here As In Heaven”. Sun Ho, CHC’s executive pastor, was preaching that weekend and at the end of the worship, she came on stage to prophesy. “She was repeating the phrase, ‘Here as in heaven, Your Kingdom comes, here as in heaven,” Renata recalls.
“I saw the congregation from the stage, so deep in worship. And there I was standing on stage, leading the song but not feeling anything. I felt like a failure. At that point I asked God, ‘Did you forget about me? You touched everyone but You missed out on me,’” she shares.
After that service, Renata went back home and before going to sleep, she had a vision while listening to some music. In her vision, she saw things, words, and people that had hurt her in the past floating in the air. She heard a voice asking her, “Do you want them to be in your future?” to which she replied, “No”. Immediately, a fire came and burned up all those things, and all that was left was ashes and smoke.
She then heard a voice saying that everything that is not of Kingdom value will be destroyed. “At that moment, Sun’s voice rang in my head, ‘Here as it is in heaven’,” she says.
Renata felt God was assuring her that even when she doesn’t feel anything when she is leading worship, He is still working among His people. “And He told me, ‘I remember you’. That really encouraged me because sometimes I feel that everybody is weeping in His presence but instead, I’m so focused on the next thing to do while leading. So that encounter really encouraged me,” she says.
LIFE AFTER A CHILD
In the past, serving together was something Daniel and Renata looked forward to. “We could spend time together, and get to know each other even better when we served together,” they say.
Daniel finds he is more conscious of how he plays when Renata is leading worship. He would spend more time preparing and would even make revisions after the weekly music practice sessions on Wednesdays. Renata also admits that because she is not as musically inclined as Daniel, serving with him also propels her to be more prepared.
However, starting a family means priorities change. The first adjustment came when Renata became pregnant. At the beginning, she was happy to lead worship while she was pregnant because she felt that baby was happy to be in that atmosphere. “Many pregnant mothers tell me that when the mother is walking around, the baby would sleep. But I can feel that the baby is moving when I’m leading, and she’s happy—maybe because I’m happy. So, I enjoyed that. The only challenge was probably that I couldn’t jump on stage,” she laughs.
Daniel, on the other hand, became increasingly worried that Renata was overworking herself as her tummy grew bigger. She eventually took a break from the stage in December last year when she was eight months pregnant.
Now that the baby has grown a little older, her parents are back on stage. Needless to say, serving now takes a different form from before, the biggest change being that Daniel and Renata no longer serve on the same weekend.
“It’s teamwork—when she is at music practice, I’ll look after Charissa and when I serve, she will look after the baby,” Daniel says as a matter of fact.
They have communicated with their ministry heads and requested to not be scheduled on the same week. “But now, that is one thing we miss—serving together,” the couple says.
Renata adds, “As we come into this different stage of life, our priorities have changed. Of course, God is still in the first place, second is my spouse and family. Ministry comes after all those and work.”
Daniel agrees, “Sometimes we just need to say no. All of us only have 24 hours a day. Previously, if someone were to ask us to lead worship or play for meetings, it was easy for us to say yes. But now, we need to have the courage to say no.”
“When we serve, we must make sure that the family part is taken care of first,” Renata continues. “I would ask Daniel if it’s okay if I serve during a certain week, which would mean I need to practice on this day and this day. Only when the other spouse is confident he or she can manage, then we say yes to serving.”
Daniel points out, “If not, we are going to be a stumbling block to our spouse. We won’t be a blessing to our own family. We don’t want to end up resenting the ministry because one of us always has to take care of the baby while the other is busy with serving—we don’t want to be in that position.”
Renata reminisces about how she used to stay at music practice or fellowship with her cell group late into the night when she was single. “But now I cannot,” she says, adding wistfully, “maybe when our children grow into teenagers.”