December 1, 2009
A small congregation in Wisconsin reached out to the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Public Information Office earlier this year with a very specific question: Are there any CDs of accompaniment for our hymnals when we don’t have anyone to play on Sunday mornings?
In the past that question might have gotten a short answer—no, unfortunately, there are not. Yet thanks to a three-year grant in 2008 from the Barrett Foundation, there is now an office within the Department of Ministry and Professional Leadership that is dedicated to “discovering, developing, and disseminating the resources needed to deepen the worship experiences in our congregations,” as its mission statement says. And so this question was forwarded to the Office of Worship and Music Resources and its director, the Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom (worship_resources @ uua.org).
“I understand my job to be that of a conduit and a liaison, a facilitator of communication and collaboration between and among our congregations, which are doing tremendous things and which already have fantastic resources within them, yet which often don’t know what one another are doing,” Wikstrom said.
He took the question of musical accompaniment to an email list of the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network, asking what alternatives there might be for a congregation in this situation. He received numerous replies, which he compiled and sent back to the congregation in Wisconsin.
One person suggested approaching public school music teachers who “might like the chance to play for adults.” Another suggested stepping outside the box of assuming that only piano or organ can accompany, noting that drums, guitars, autoharps, violins, recorders, or any other pitched, rhythm, or chordal instrument also work to accompany the songs in hymnals. Another response began, “My congregation has twelve members, three of whom (including me) are the choir—more aptly described as song leaders. We have an accompanist only at the couple of services a year that don't happen on Sunday morning. Otherwise, we sing a capella, always.”
Wikstrom introduced the author of this last email to the author of the original inquiry so that they might form a mentorship. “This is something I find very exciting in my work,” says Wikstrom. “Bringing together congregations that can support one another is such a fabulous model for how we can provide services. It reinforces and reinvigorates the reality of our Association.”
The Office of Worship and Music Resources also maintains the WorshipWeb—the online database of worship resources, which is currently undergoing a major expansion not just of the amount of content but of the kinds of resources it contains. “It’s evolving into a one-stop shop for any and all questions one might have regarding worship, including not only questions about chalice lightings and readings but also about issues of technology, cross-cultural engagement, multigenerational worship, music, drama, movement, art—anything and everything may someday be included,” said Wikstrom. The WAMR office also fields questions about copyright permissions and new developments in worship, and is looking to create mentorships among congregations.
For more information visit WorshipWeb.
For more information contact interconnections @ uua.org.
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Last updated on Friday, April 5, 2013.
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