Music in Unitarian Universalist Congregations
Music is the thing that moves the heart and soul
The spoken words in a service stimulate the intellect and the spirit, and the music moves the soul and the heart. With the breath of our bodies and the joining of our voices, we use our congregational songs to sing what we believe.
What kinds of music can I expect to hear at Unitarian Universalist Sunday services?
All kinds! And the offerings vary from congregation to congregation. Some have professional pianists who play everything from Bach to the Beatles to Billy Bragg. In others, congregation members may perform as individuals or form bands to share the music that moves them. In many congregations, choirs sing a mix of Unitarian Universalist hymns, gospel arrangements, folk harmonies, and pop classics. We’re interested in music that is relevant to our lives and our collective hopes and dreams.
What music does the congregation sing on Sundays?
Our two hymn books include songs by Unitarian Universalist composers and songs from other faith traditions, as well as popular music that inspires us. Most are in English, but we might sing in French, Hebrew, Arabic, Zulu, or Hungarian. We also often enjoy music that is not in our hymn books but that suits the theme of a service; a celebration of community might invite people to sing Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend,” for example, and a service about joy might include “What a Wonderful World.”
Can newcomers get involved with the music making?
Absolutely! We couldn’t do music in our congregations without the cheerful participation of volunteers. If you like to sing, you might join the choir or offer to sing a solo. If you play an instrument, you may be able to join a congregational band, accompany the choir, or play during Sunday service or at another event. Whether you are a keen amateur or a seasoned professional, there is a place for you in our music programs.
How else is music used in Unitarian Universalist congregations?
- Fundraising. Many congregations raise funds by sharing music. For example, the Unitarian Church of Calgary holds an annual cabaret and hosts performances by jazz quartets and chamber musicians.
- Outreach. Music can build community and bring comfort. For example, the Comfort Choir at Neighbourhood Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Toronto sings every week in a hospital palliative care unit.
- Social justice. Unitarian Universalist choirs have sung at rallies and vigils in support of justice, compassion, and transformation.
- Spiritual practice. Singing, chanting, drumming, and other ways of making music can be ways of expressing spirituality. Some of our congregations offer singing meditation or drum circles.
There is a place for you in the musical life of your local Unitarian Universalist congregation! Ask the music director, minister, or service leader about the opportunities available to you. We’re always happy to meet musicians and to welcome you. Find a congregation near you!