Music Ministry Visioning Statement

As our church year comes to a close, so does our nearly year-long effort to synthesize and articulate a vision for music ministry and how our congregation sees it manifesting at Foothills and throughout the larger community as we move forward. 

We conducted detailed interviews with some of the top UU music ministers in the nation and with leading music ministers from other liberal religious traditions. We held feedback circles with choir members, parents with children in the RE program, and some of the many musicians in our congregation, asking open-ended questions about how music has, can, and should manifest in their lives and the life of the congregation in support of our mission statement. We conducted an online survey that drew nearly 90 detailed responses. We took all of this feedback and synthesized it into the visioning statement below, which will be handed over to the music minister search committee, to guide their work, which begins in the fall.

In faith,
Sue Sullivan, Gretchen Suetching O’Dell and Herb Orrell

Music Ministry Visioning Statement

Music Ministry at Foothills supports the unleashing of courageous love by empowering the congregation, by helping us to integrate heart, mind, and spirit, by providing us inspiration and opportunities for collaborative worship experiences, and by embodying the message of Foothills to the larger community.

We do this by:

  • Embracing our diversity – we are a safe home for people of all backgrounds and perspectives and we honor and celebrate diverse musical traditions and understand that they can help us become more culturally competent.
  • Growing our faith – through a flexible, multi-faceted music program that involves all members of the congregation and deepens our experience of musicality in our lives.
  • Awakening our spirits – by developing and nourishing a sense of community, connection, joy, and service through the collective experience of music.

Music manifests in our congregation:

  • Through many different year-round options for people to engage in music, including small groups, special music, pop-up choirs, bands, children’s choirs, multi-generational choirs, a general adult choir, Vespers teams, healing choir, song circles, drum circles, and hosting guest musicians.
  • Through a choir that is both a covenantal practice of love, loyalty, and trust, and a service to the congregation, leading and supporting congregational singing.
  • By being collaborative in every possible way, including fostering the musical gifts of lay musicians and engaging in bold and innovative partnerships with other ministries within our church and with community partners and other area churches.
  • By spreading creativity, innovation, and joy, by inspiring social justice engagement, and by furthering the mission of this church.

Our full-time Minister of Music*:

  • Collaborates creatively and enthusiastically to generate meaningful and transformational UU worship experiences.
  • Is playful, eager to build community, foster healing, and inspire commitment.
  • Fosters the integration of the music ministry throughout the life of the church and through their own participation in the life of the church.
  • Brings expertise in emerging congregational practices.
  • Brings a diversity of musical expertise, including strong sight-reading ability.
  • Is a welcoming, inspirational, and organized music leader and teacher, especially for non-professionals, and seeks out and embraces the rich musical talents and abilities in our congregation.
  • Helps us grow in our cultural competence and become a more diverse and welcoming community.
  • Deeply understands and is committed to professional boundaries and the roles and responsibilities of a UU Music Minster.
  • Can network effectively throughout the vibrant Northern Colorado music scene.


*Not an exhaustive list – that will be accomplished in a job description.  



An Update on Music Visioning and Music Director Search

From our Music Visioning Task Force Sue Sullivan, Gretchen O’Dell and Herb Orrell

After a busy autumn conducting interviews with notable music ministers across the country, holding feedback circles with choir members and other groups inside the church, and gathering feedback from the congregation at large via an online survey that was completed by 88 members, we have a great deal of information to sift through to craft a vision for music ministry at Foothills.

But with the departure of administrator Carolyn Myers in December, we felt that trying to hire a new church administrator and a new music director was a tall order.

In order to do the best job of both, we opted to ask Chris Reed if he would be willing to extend his interim director position. He has agreed to continue serving as interim music minister through December, after which he will be returning to graduate school to finish his PhD and pursue his academic passions full-time. Chris has become beloved by choir and the congregation of Foothills, but his first home is academia. We are deeply grateful for the calm, comforting, and affirming hand he has brought to our music ministry in this time of revisioning.

With our musical direction needs covered through the end of the year, the music visioning task force now expects to finalize the Music Ministry Vision next month and share it with the congregation for your feedback.

This vision will describe the purpose of music in our church, the ways music shows up in our congregational life, and what impact our music ministry should have within the congregation and in the larger community. It will also include qualities that we desire in our music minister.

By September, Foothills will assemble a separate search team to create a position packet for applicants that would be disseminated in a nationwide search. Interviews could begin by the end of the year and final candidates could be invited out to meet us by April of next year, with the expectation of hiring a new music director by July of 2019.

After Chris leaves us in December, we plan over the next four to five months to hold a series of music residencies. The initial residencies will be filled by well-known consulting music ministers who will come for several weeks at a time and work with our congregation, both to provide for our musical worship needs in the interim period and to help us prepare to welcome a new music director. By spring, our finalists for the position can be the music directors in residence, so that we can get to know each other before making a final decision.

We do know that we should have a full-time music minister position, both for the needs of our congregation and to draw the best possible candidates. We estimate we will need to raise another $25,000 a year in pledges to cover this cost,  but we are confident that we can make this happen!

Look for the draft music ministry vision in the coming weeks. We are very excited by the possibilities that this new vision for music in the life of our congregation holds for us!

Envisioning Music Ministry at Foothills

A note from Our Music Visioning Team, submitted by member, Sue Sullivan

Last January, we heard many requests from members of our choir to take the time and the opportunity to look deeply at what we could ask for and aspire to in the way of music ministry at Foothills. Our former music director had been  here for a dozen years and the director before him served for a decade as well. As a result of these long tenures, it has been many years since this congregation has asked itself – in a deep and open-to-all possibilities way — how we could imagine music ministry manifesting at Foothills.

The Committee on Shared Ministry (which consists of Glenn Pearson, Sally Harris, Anne Hall, Herb Orrell and myself), as part of its on-going responsibility to gather effective and meaningful feedback about how Foothills is manifesting its various ministries and how we might unleash more courageous love in our community and beyond, has taken on the leadership of this task of exploring the wide range of possibilities for music to manifest in our faith and our community, and to listen deeply to what our music makers and our whole Foothills community would find meaningful, transformative, creative, and powerful.

To that end, the COSM convened a sub-task force (composed of myself and Herb, plus two non-COSM members, Gretchen O’Dell, Dave Montanari, and in partnership with Rev. Haley) are beginning a multi-step process of:

  • gathering feedback from Unitarian congregations and other churches known for their strong and innovative music ministries
  • reporting back to the congregation about the ideas and programming we discover in those interviews
  • asking members of the congregation as a whole to take a music visioning survey, which will include questions about what has been meaningful or transformative in our own experiences of music ministry at Foothills in the past and what new possibilities we might wish to explore in the future
  • holding small-group feedback circles for various groups within the church who make the music we experience, as well specific groups of people whose experience of music ministry we would like to understand more deeply
  • gathering up all that visioning and feedback and reporting back to the congregation as a whole what we heard and how that can be shaped into a vision of how music manifests as a ministry at Foothills in the coming years
  • and finally, writing a detailed job description of what sort of candidate would be the right kind of leader for this ministry in our church, including such details as part-time or full, choir director or music director or music minister.

We intend to post this position by December in order to begin a nationwide search through Unitarian Universalist circles and networks.  This would typically conclude around April with the start of the new person by mid-summer. We are most grateful and happy to have the musical leadership of Chris Reed as our Interim Music Director through next May as we conduct this search. Chris is eligible to apply for this position, and he will be working with Gretchen in December after the position is finalized, to discern if and how he sees this is a potential fit.

We are digging in right away to our first task, which is asking the music directors of congregations with nationally known music ministries to tell us about their music programs. We’ll ask what works and what doesn’t, what they love about it, how it relates to the rest of the church’s programming. We’ll ask how many different avenues are there for people to create music in their ministry and whether they use music as an outreach to the larger community. What instruments do they use and where do they find the pieces they perform? How do children and youth participate in music? How do people learn music in these churches? How does music turn up as a spiritual practice?

The congregations we will talk to include: All Souls Church in DC; All Souls Tulsa; Middle Collegiate Church in NYC; the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor; and First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque.

After we gather this feedback, we’ll report our findings back to you and craft a survey to help identify what you have found to be powerful and transformative in the past and what new possibilities you would like us to pursue musically. We will also hold small-group feedback circles to ask and listen to your experiences and hopes about music in our collective life, with both the makers of music in our church and those who experience it deeply and meaningfully.

We are very excited about this chance to be intentional, expansive, creative, and transformative as we re-vision music as a ministry and a spiritual practice here at Foothills Unitarian, and we look forward to hearing from you!

In partnership,
Sue Sullivan, on behalf of the Music Visioning Team