Music plays an important part at Chelsea First United Methodist Church
Chelsea First United Methodist Church Pastor Joy Barrett summed it up well when she was asked how music fits into a service and why it’s important.
“Music is essential in Christian worship,” she said. “Music expresses what words alone cannot express. Music draws us into the presence of God. Through music we experience awe, wonder, passion, delight, conviction, encouragement, comfort. Music helps us learn and recall; music brings people together. Music speaks to the part of us that wants to be well, physically, emotionally, spiritually.”
Randy Umfleet, who is Chelsea First United Methodist Church‘s Director of Music Ministries, understands this quite well too. Since he arrived at Chelsea First in November 2021, he’s been working hard to consistently bring a vibrant, unique and meaningful musical experience to the church.
After hearing compliments being paid about the music at the church, the Sun Times News (STN) reached out to Umfleet to see what the compliments are all about.
We began by asking him: what are the goals of the music program?
“My goal and mission is to implement exciting and meaningful music along with other elements of the arts into the life of the church to elevate corporate and private times of worship,” he answered. “The Music Ministry at Chelsea First exists so that teams and individuals have an opportunity to serve God with the gifts they have been given in music and the creative arts. A wide genre of music, including traditional and new hymns, anthems, service music, contemporary praise music choruses, and gospel music, is used in order to glorify God.”
He ended his answer by saying, “Colossians 3.16 really sums it up… ‘Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord’."
Prior to coming to Chelsea, Umfleet had been living in the West Palm Beach area of Florida and serving as the Minister of Music for St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Port Salerno. This new role has brought him back to Michigan after being in Florida for three years. Previously, he served for 17 years at a church in Lansing and prior to that he was with a church in Grand Rapids for 10 years.
He brings with him 39 years of experience in music ministry with five different denominations and an educational and working background in music education, theater and production. He said he’s had the privilege of working with choirs from ranging in size from 35 members up to 300 members, as well as orchestra and instrumental groups; working with secular and Christian recording artists to provide backup choirs and orchestras, serving as a program director for a crusade ministry for a few years as well as performing in professional theater for a few summers.
“Randy is a gifted musician and worship designer/leader,” Barrett said. “Drawing upon his personal faith, his many skills and years of experience, Randy is a catalyst for renewed passion, energy and engagement in worship at Chelsea First. Randy shapes worship in a way that speaks to the whole person, creating opportunities to encounter God’s loving grace, to learn and practice faith, and to be empowered to go out and serve the world.”
And noting an important part of Umfleet’s style, Barrett said, “Randy honors the gifts and talents of others, intentionally creating opportunities for people to share their gifts and be involved in leading worship.”
STN asked Barrett if there is anything in particular she wants the community to know.
“Randy is challenging us to remember we have a message to share with our community: trusting in a God of endless grace and love for all people, we are a church that welcomes all persons, without judgment or reservation,” she said. “We ground ourselves in the Great Commandment: love God with everything we have and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Following the example of Jesus, we embrace persons who are often overlooked or marginalized, we encourage questions, we promote social justice, stand up for the common good, respect other faith traditions, work for understanding, reconciliation, and peace.”
STN asked Umfleet what he wants the community to know about what’s going on with the music at Chelsea First.
“My goal would be that the community knows that music is an important part of Chelsea First United Methodist Church,” he said. “I also want the community to know that the music heard and performed at the church is not perhaps what most people stereotype music at a church to be. I believe in using a variety of genres of musical style and instrumentation. I welcome instrumentalists who would like to have an outlet to perform where their talents are appreciated and I also encourage youth to be involved in the music here at Chelsea First.”