Healthy congregations are singing congregations! Congregations with thriving, vibrant music programs help us articulate our Unitarian Universalist identity because what we sing is who we are. The experience of music in worship – especially congregational singing – is what defines us for most people in the pews, because it’s the primary way they participate in the worship service. Growing resources that strengthen music ministry in our congregations is one of the easiest growth strategies we could possibly devise. But what do our congregations actually need in terms of resources, and how do we assess those needs?
In 2017, the UU Musicians Network received a grant from the UU Funding Program to fund a comprehensive survey of music programs in Unitarian Universalist congregations throughout North America, with the goal of identifying specific needs for resources and support. In order to best serve music ministry in our congregations, we need to know what’s actually happening in those congregations in terms of music programming and staffing. Our 1,000+ congregations vary wildly in their approaches to music ministry, and gaining practical knowledge of these approaches is crucial for determining institutional support for music ministry from both the UUMN and the UUA. The goal of this project is simple – to spend a year collecting as much data related to music ministry in our congregations as is possible. We need to know:
- Music program staffing (Volunteer? Paid? Hours per week worked? Relationship style with clergy? Participant in worship planning?),
Program Details (Choirs? Number of singers in each choir? Children’s programming? Other musical ensembles? Piano/organ/other instrumentation?)
- Budget for salaries and programs
- Repertoire (Which hymnal(s) used? Musical styles/traditions engaged? Needs/hopes for new music?)
- Is the person responsible for music ministry in the congregation a member of UUMN? If so, what’s the value of membership? If not, why not? Is UUMN membership/conference attendance supported through professional expenses? Is membership (and subsequent adherence to the UUMN code of ethics) a requirement of employment?
- Liturgical realities (Number of musical works in typical Sunday service? How does worship space support/hinder music ministry? What’s the typical worship planning process?
The UU Musicians Network is working with the Rev. Jason Shelton (composer, choral director, and music minister-at-large) to carry forward and complete the survey which is at the halfway point of completion. In order to finish the project, which will culminate in a series of reports to the UUMN Board and annual conference, and the leadership of the UUA, we need your help!
This FAITHIFY campaign will unlock a $5,000 matching grant from the UU Funding Panel, and those funds will be used to complete the project outlined above, resulting in an incredibly valuable collection of data that will shape the course of our faith community’s music ministry for years to come.