By Nicole Salemi, Director of Community Engagement

“It is important that the FRSUU community feels like this is a co-creative ministry.”
– Justin Murphy-Mancini, director of church music


As the new Director of Church Music, Justin Murphy-Mancini is putting the call out strong and clear to the congregation – “Tell me about your musical gifts.”

“I want to get to know folks and their musical gifts,” says Justin. “If you are not choir and have musical gifts, I want to know about that. There are opportunities for many different kinds of music to be integrated into the service. If someone has a single song that they can do, then that can be worked into the liturgy.”

Justin is looking to blend traditions—such as the choir providing leadership during the service—with new approaches, such as a more formalized music ministry team* that will build through music community, inclusion and spiritual practice.

“The traditions in which we come from, such as the choir leading everyone in song, helps the congregation feel good about singing together,” says Justin. “I think there’s a special power in the choir to do that work. We must [also] ask the new questions. The world and the community need us to ask new questions of what we do so we can be certain that the things we have always done is what we want them to be.”

Sunday morning worship service is central to the music ministry Justin envisions.

“Worship service is the central moment where we choose to gather on purpose to be together,” he says. “It is the moment we can articulate most concisely who we are, what we believe and how we want to come together.”

Justin’s work this year will ask how FRS brings music in direct conversation with the rest of the elements of the service. He’s asking all (not just those musically inclined) to consider the goals of the service and how the music relates to it—for that relationship reflects who is in the community and what they care about.

“Coming together to make sure the music is good is a central way we express our community,” he says. “[We need to consider] is the choir expressing the contemporary needs of the community? What are we signing to? How are we sharing the rich music-making history of the church? For example, Barbara Owen spent a lot of time creating a special collection of music which is part of the community’s identity that should be shared in new ways with the community. How do we make the things that are central to the community really alive? What music is going to help us really build that together.”

Justin in partnership with Rev. Rebecca and all of us, the beloved congregation, will continuing exploring these questions and new ones. For now, Justin says the one thing the congregation can do is to let him know what their hopes are. He’d like to hear how he can help to reflect the traditions our heritage back to the congregation in a new way.

“I like to find ways to enliven a new experience of tradition because that is what I care about a lot,” he says. “In that way, I am always finding something new to be excited about.”

Have a musical gift? Want to share thoughts, ideas, requests and suggestions? Contact Justin.

Read the featured profile on Justin.

*Correction: This article mentions creating a more formalized music ministry team which is incorrect as the church will not be formalizing such a team at this time. Director of Church Music Justin Murphy-Mancini is the direct contact for all musical programming. Please contact Justin, if you would like to be involved in making music at the church.

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