Engage, Encourage, and Be Intentional

By Jayson Enquist

After 40+ years in the business of sacred music, I have noticed a gradual shift in the role of sacred musicians and what is considered sacred music. The music I experienced as sacred back in the 1960s-1970s (when I was starting), to the present day, has evolved a new understanding of what it means to lead sacred music in the congregational setting. I believe it’s a perfect time to shift a little more, and possibly back a little. I want to address several areas of our sacred music ministries in this short article.

1 – Engage the next generations. Many of us are involved with the study and teaching of piano, voice, organ, and other instruments used in worship. We have an opportunity to engage some of these eager folks, whether children learning for the first time or older adults who wish to become more acquainted and involved with music in worship. We should welcome folks into involvement within our worship experience. Every situation is different. When was the last time you invited someone to sing or play in the service and to discuss what it means to be involved in a sacred setting? Many children and adults take applied music lessons but never get involved in the worship setting. Think about it. I have noticed that the many viable sacred music programs involve and train the next generations. A wonderful thing! Some congregations can trace musicians, who now are living their paths through sacred service, back to having grown up with nurturing and wonderful musician role models. This is a very different focus, in my mind than training to be a professional performer on a concert stage.

2 – Encourage current UCCMA musicians. As with choirs and other ensembles in churches, I’ve found the most successful recruiting technique is for existing members to invite their peer congregational members to join the group. The leader/director can also help in this effort, but there is nothing like a current member of a group inviting someone in. The same thing can be said for UCCMA membership. Why not invite others in to become active and involved with UCC Musicians Association? Why not set the goal of each of us inviting ONE new UCCMA member from those musicians we know who are near our communities? Within Connecticut, for instance (where UCCMA started), there are at least 260 UCC/Congregational churches in Connecticut. If EACH church musician were a UCCMA member, imagine the growth. Nationally, I believe there are over 6,500 UCC congregations. We have much room to expand and include many diverse musicians.

3 – Consider intentional interim music ministry. Many years ago, I marveled at a new training program for both clergy and musicians within the then-Connecticut Conference for becoming “intentional interim” leaders. I sought more information and attended classes and conferences alongside UCC clergy. This special instructional program was designed to allow congregations the freedom of having a trained musician for a specified "in between" period (usually following a long-time musician’s tenure). Many important things can be accomplished by a trained intentional interim who works with church leadership members, deacons, council, staff, etc. It is essential (especially if the church has had a longtime musician who leaves or retires) to figure out what is important to a particular congregation and how to work towards ensuring an attractive program, profile, and staff package for potential new musicians.

4 – Address the loss of educational institutions and programs. An alarming trend I’ve witnessed recently is the closing of music programs and departments at colleges, universities, and seminaries across our country. Several recent program closures in Minnesota (where we now reside) include the University of Minnesota (organ performance), St. John's University (all music performance), and Luther Seminary (ELCA) (master’s in sacred music). Most of the college’s sacred music programs and organ departments have experienced large drops in students majoring in sacred music.

This is one we, as current musicians, can address in the form of intentional training offerings through our congregations and UCC denomination. Whether you encourage a student pianist to consider playing in services, learning to play the organ, working with choir singers of all ages, etc., we can make a difference and help to address the present shortage of training opportunities.

How can you reverse some of the trends I’ve brought up? Think about it. 

If you’d like to become more involved in aspects of those mentioned above, please be in touch with your UCCMA board members, and I welcome any of you to be in touch with me if you have more ideas or any questions, comments or suggestions:

Jayson R. Engquist: ORGJRE@GMAIL.COM

UCCMA Founding President, Jayson R. Engquist, is a Minnesota native. He holds several sacred music and organ performance degrees from Yale University's School of Music and St. Olaf College.

Engquist worked in Connecticut and New York for many years and is now semi-retired. He has played and directed in several faith communities during his career: Lutheran, Episcopal, Reform Jewish, and United Church of Christ. He currently plays at two synagogues and a church in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, where he lives with his husband, David Winkworth.


Come, O Come, Our Voices Raise

Composed by Peter Niedmann


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Worship, Music & Ministry is a publication of the United Church of Christ Musicians Association, Inc. and is issued three times a year. The journal is distributed to members of UCCMA as a benefit of membership.

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