A Message from:

The Rev. Karen Georgia A. Thompson

General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ

O give thanks to the Lord, for God is good, for God’s steadfast love endures forever.

(1 Chronicles 16:34)

This year, the United Church of Christ Musicians Association (UCCMA) celebrates 30 years of ministry in our denomination. These thirty years reflect ministry that spans nearly half the life of the United Church of Christ, which was formed in 1957 - a 66-year journey as a denomination. The UCC and UCCMA are both young and continue to evolve in their responses to the denomination's needs in all its settings and to the members, musicians, artists, clergy, and worship planners. At 30, UCCMA continues to affirm and live into its purpose: Inspiring, educating, and nurturing those who minister through music and the arts.

For the past 30 years, UCCMA has been a vital part of the UCC, networking with musicians in the UCC, sharing relevant resources on ministry and the arts, and creating space in Worship, Music & Ministry for exploring challenges and opportunities facing congregations in planning for worship and for engaging the transformative potential of the arts in sacred spaces and programming. The journal is a platform for engaging the members of the UCC: “As the primary publication of the United Church of Christ Musicians Association, Worship, Music, and Ministry strives to provide church musicians, clergy, and worship planners with relevant and practical resources to assist in creating spiritual and transformative worship.”

In past years, the journal went from print to an online journal. As an electronic publication, this journal has an opportunity to reach a broad audience with this targeted focus. The diversity within the UCC requires a variety of contributors who can share their experiences and raise relevant issues and challenges. Existing and emerging issues affect congregations as they offer members and visitors worship and programs that are transformational, spirit-filled, and justice-seeking. The diversity in the UCC is positive and negative, with a wide range in the variety of congregations and an accompanying number of issues and challenges that could be addressed. This diversity is to be accommodated and engaged as it is an essential part of the UCC.

Over the years, UCCMA has explored various topics and must continue to do so as it forges a path beyond these 30 years of ministry in the UCC. The broad invitation to contributors affords hearing from leaders across the UCC on issues relevant and engaging for the breadth of the UCC. Having contributors representing the diversity in the UCC means that UCCMA can better provide resources consistent with the named priority of Worship, Music, and Art. Expanding the reach, topics, and content of the publication will ensure the relevance and leadership of UCCMA in years to come.

Reflection on the 30 years of UCCMA reveals the accomplishments and challenges, even as it points toward what comes next for UCCMA. The UCC has experienced significant changes since its inception and that is also true for the 30 years since UCCMA was created. UCCMA, like the UCC, will need to address emerging trends and changes in the UCC. Worship is an integral part of congregational life, and, as the arts continue to be a vibrant part of liturgy and worship, can the UCCMA membership hold the range of diverse representations in the arts while still focusing on music? As congregations change, UCCMA must continue to live into its purpose of inspiring, educating, and nurturing ministry through music and the arts in ways that are relevant to the diverse ways in which ministry and worship are unfolding in the UCC.

To be responsive to this reality, there are several issues UCCMA will need to address intentionally through music and bearing in mind the diversities present within UCC congregations. These current and emerging diversities will affect the styles and options for worship and the arts with the UCC. Can UCCMA continue to provide the support needed for those who minister through music and the arts amidst the diversities present in the UCC?

Music and Arts for the Whole Church

For as in one body we have many members and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us. (Romans 12:4-6a)

Over the years, the UCC has addressed justice issues, which prompted changes in the hymnody and creation of liturgy. Inclusive language was a change of importance and continues to be prioritized. Inclusive language pushes us to think about the whole church. Our use of language is conscious of the historical ways in which the church used masculine language and male metaphors for describing God and the divine presence among us. This gender bias has seen the review of our hymnody and the creation of songs that use gender-neutral language, at times, music and liturgy also included using female pronouns for God.

The church is much more than gender and language. The quest for inclusion must be framed in the broader context of the diversities that exist within the UCC. The UCC continues to prioritize seeking a just world for all. Advocacy for justice identifies a variety of issues, including racism, sexism, xenophobia, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, ageism, and the intersectionality of these issues. These are a few challenges facing the communities served and the congregations within the UCC. Communities are further challenged by homelessness, food insecurity, poverty, hunger, and education, and as communities continue to move beyond the years of the COVID-19 pandemic grief and loss require liturgical attention.

Creating music for the whole church is a task ahead for the UCC. Justice concerns, the grief among us, and the need for inclusive language are a beginning in the discourse about diversity in the UCC and the many topics that could be of interest in creating music, arts, and liturgy for worship.

UCC congregations are diverse theologically, geographically, politically, and in size. Theological diversity is an awareness often experienced in the divide between progressive and conservative congregations and UCC members. As one denomination with varying layers of diversity and justice-seeking priorities, the future of UCCMA should hold priorities for addressing these issues.

A past issue of Worship, Music & Ministry focused on ministry in small congregations. These offerings from contributors were a significant contribution for ministers serving in these areas which are not often at the forefront of ministry in the UCC. Beyond this thirtieth anniversary, UCCMA could continue providing much-needed insight, resources, and support for congregations not in the demographics most often addressed in the UCC. This is an excellent opportunity for UCCMA to be an integral part of resourcing UCC congregations.

The future of UCCMA holds tremendous possibilities for creating space for musicians and other artists to provide insights and content for the life of the UCC. The critical challenge for UCCMA is creating spaces that reflect the whole church. It is easy to create niches where some parts of the church are included and not others. The complexities of the UCC should be reflected in the memberships, issues, concerns, and priorities of UCCMA.

Something New

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; God’s mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22-23a)

Much has transpired in the church over the past 30 years and the journal has seen its changes as well, pivoting to address the experiences of the church. The church continues to experience decline and with it are opportunities for resourcing congregations as they find their way to new ways of doing ministry.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought significant changes to the church. These are challenges and opportunities no one could have predicted. Online congregations continued as a part of the church even as many congregations returned to meeting in person. Emerging within the uniqueness of these post-pandemic online communities are diverse worship styles along with various days of the week that communities choose to be in worship.

The increase in individuals disaffiliating from religious institutions continues to be of concern. Yet, it also presents opportunities as those disaffiliating continue to look for ways to explore their spirituality. As spaces are created to attend to these needs, new worship spaces will emerge, with opportunities for addressing the needs of congregations.

New things are emerging among us in the UCC. Demographics are changing. The kinds of congregations we have are changing. The needs of communities in which congregations are located are also evolving. The pandemic showed there is no way to predict what comes next in the life of the church and no one way to respond. The years also showed that the church can respond in times of crisis.

For the past 30 years, UCCMA has proven to be a worthwhile resource and companion for worship planners and church musicians in the UCC. Congratulations to UCCMA for its accomplishments over the past 30 years. As it moves beyond these 30 years, the association can gather new leaders and contributors to participate in the UCCMA and its journal. A focus on the diversities and margins of the denomination will continue to ensure that the whole church is being resourced, even as the church continues to provide ways for bringing transformational and spirit-filled worship to the UCC.  ■

The Rev. Dr. Karen Georgia A. Thompson is the newly elected General Minister and President of the United Church of Christ. Rev. Thompson is the first woman and first woman of African descent to serve as leader of the denomination.

Before this call, Rev. Thompson served in the national setting of the United Church of Christ for 14 years – two years as Minister for Racial Justice, eight years as Minister for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, and four years as the Associate General Minister for Wider Church Ministries and Co-Executive for Global Ministries starting in 2019. Her passion for justice and equity moved her work on behalf of the UCC into a global context, allowing the participation globally in efforts to reduce the marginalization experienced by African descendant peoples and other communities globally.

Before joining the national staff, Rev. Thompson served in the Florida Conference United Church of Christ as a Pastor and as the Minister for Disaster Response and Recovery on the Conference staff. She also worked in the nonprofit arena for over ten years in senior leadership positions.

Rev. Thompson earned a Bachelor of Arts from Brooklyn College in New York, a Master’s in Public Administration from North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC, and a Master’s of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary in New York. She also studied Public Policy at Duke University and earned her Doctorate in Ministry at Seattle University. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from Heidelberg University.


United in Love

Composition by Andrey Stolyaroved 

You Are My Shepherd

By Gloria Fanchiang


"Upright cross with outwardly widening ends. It is often seen in relics from the late antique and early medieval Byzantine Empire (until c. 800) and was adopted by other Christian cultures of the time, such as the Franks and Goths."

— Wikipedia


The first 22 years of Worship, Music & Ministry in print.

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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.

All correspondence concerning membership in UCCMA, changes of address and other inquiries should be addressed to the United Church of Christ Musicians Association, P.O. Box 370631, West Hartford, CT  06137.

Information about the United Church of Christ Musicians Association is available at www.uccma.org.

Copyright © 2024 by the United Church of Christ Musicians Association, Inc.


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