Singing in Another Church’s Choir

by ‘Kelly Ann’

This coming weekend, I will be singing Gounod’s:: Messe Solennelle (St.Cecilia Mass) in a joint performance of the local symphony and the Unitarian Universalist Choir.  I quite randomly, after attending one service at the UU church, started singing with the choir near my house at the beginning of February.  They don’t care that I am not a member of their church – nor that I am Mormon.

While I originally went to see what their music program was like, thinking it would be nice to learn a few hymns, I was drawn in by the spirit of the group and range of music that they sing.   In the two and a half months since I joined the choir, we have sung some hymns – but also a mix of Broadway, Jazz, and Classical pieces.  I have felt at ease as I have gotten to know an interesting mix of people who made me feel comfortable from the beginning.  My section in particular has gone out of its way in encouraging me.

Having only sung in ward and stake choirs sporadically previously, and suffered a bit from a shy alto complex, singing in the UU choir has pushed me musically.  The choir is actually pretty good with an enthusiastic musical director and professional singers as section leaders.  It is really fulfilling just to learn new pieces and sing for 2-3 hours a week.  However, being in the UU church has also fed me spiritually in ways that I did not know I was lacking.  I can’t tell you how many times I have felt the spirit while singing pieces or interacting with others.  It has been refreshing to feel welcome to a group where faith is integral to their existence, but people’s beliefs vary from Atheist to Theist to “former whatever” to “dual whatever” to simply a musician.  I now come early to chat with friends I have made on Thursday nights and on some Sundays.  I have been gaining new perspectives on lives and faith while being myself.  I’ve even had some particularly interesting conversations about Mormon Feminism and Women’s Ordination with a couple women who attended the Sunstone West dialogue between Catholic and Mormon women (they identifying as Catholic as well as Unitarian Universalist).  While there are definitely moments like when I have sung completely different words to hymns, that I have felt a bit odd thinking about the fact that I am singing with another church’s choir, overall it has been really satisfying.

As I am proud of how I have progressed as a singer, and am really looking forward to the performance this weekend, I have invited a handful of friends – albeit my voice will be hidden within my section and I may not be able to see everybody who comes.  I have to say that I have been pleased that my Mormon friends haven’t been put off by the fact that it is in the UU Church – which I worried a little bit about.  They recognize the importance to me, enjoy music themselves, and where possible are coming to support me.  For which I am grateful.


In terms of discussion, I am curious what if any ways, have you participated with different faiths or religious traditions?  Was it a good experience or bad experience?

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12 Responses

  1. Jenn says:

    I’m heading to my UU choir practice tonight:) That’s one of the first things I did when we started attending their services.

  2. Emily U says:

    Reading this makes me miss they days of singing in the choir at the non-denominational church where my husband is the music director. I sang with them every week for about 5 years and loved it. I learned and grew a lot singing and worshiping with them, and I miss it but it became impossible after we had kids.

    Some day when my kids are older I’d like to sing more. Community choirs are a possibility, but there is something about singing with church choirs that I love so much. I haven’t had the greatest experiences in ward choirs, but that’s another matter for another day (I can’t blame the directors for not having much training). What I’m realizing more and more is that I should look for and hold to spiritual practices and worship experiences that work for me, wherever I find them. I’m glad you found your UU choir to sing with!

  3. One of my favorite memories was when I was in college in California and we sang an entire Mass in the Cathedral in Sacramento. Made me fall in love with the older music we ignore in favor of our 19th century hymn attempts. I still hope to write a Mass myself one day, even if I’ll never be Catholic.

    ot side note – is anyone monitoring the blog email? I’ve sent a couple, including through the comments on the website, and gotten no response.

    • Caroline says:

      Thanks for the heads up about the email, Frank. Email is supposed to be forwarded to my account, but I think there must be a problem there. I will check it out. In the meantime, feel free to contact me at carolinekline at gmail dot com.

  4. spunky says:

    This is great, Kelly Ann!

    Over a decade ago, I participated in a inner-faith choir for Thanksgiving in the US. It really was fun- each choice chose a hymn traditional to their faith, then we sang a comobined Thanksgiving hymn that was original. I loved it. I think of it often, and long for other things like this. I think the faith combination brings a powerful spirit– that we are united, even if we believe diffrent things.

    I have paticipated in Jewish ritual with my previous husband who was Jewish, and grew up in a catholic neighbourhood, so mixed faith is normal to me. I would not have it any other way.

  5. Timothy says:

    My wife and I have been attending a UU church for a few months now and actually just became members. We are also on an indefinite break from Mormonism. So we’re not exactly who you were asking about, but I think reaching out to another faith tradition has been really vital for us in our journey. I think if we are every going to go back to Mormon church, it will be really vital to know that we aren’t just doing it because we haven’t found any other good options.

    On a more relevant note, I’ve been trying to get out to sing in the choir, but the one I want to join (our congregation has a contemporary and a classical choir and I would rather do classical) meets on the same night as my wife’s yoga night.

  6. EmilyCC says:

    When I worked as a hospital chaplain, I’d attend or lead a noonday devotional every day. I loved those services. We always had a range of religious representation in the audience and through the chaplains who led the services. It was always peaceful and usually enriching to my spiritual life.

    I’ve never participated in a non-Mormon choir. From your’s and Emily’s reports, it sounds like something I ought to try.

  7. Kelly Ann says:

    Jenn and Timothy, It is great to see others who enjoy participating in UU choirs and services as well. Timothy, I am not exactly highly active in my ward right now either – I go about once a month, and attend several of the social groups. But no matter one level of activity or not, I think it is great that people can meet there faith needs. I like how you mention the importance of exploring good options.

    Emily U, thank you for sharing your experience. That sounds like a great opportunity. I have had some good experiences in ward and stake choirs – but so far singing with the UU choir has simply been completely different. It would be interesting to have a discussion about people’s experiences in ward and stake choirs (noting to myself to keep it as an idea for a future post).

    Frank, your experience also sounds nice. How great that you want to write a mass! I think that what I have really enjoyed about my experience is getting to know classical and other music better.

    Spunky, It is interesting that the best experience I had in a stake choir was also at a Thanksgiving fireside in the Provo Tabernacle in 2003 or 2004. Thank you for sharing your experience. It is a reassuring to hear so many people share their experiences. Because at times I do feel a little crazy for having jumped into another churches choir.

    But I agree with EmilyCC – that participating in other traditions can be peaceful and fulfilling.

  8. Rachel says:

    I have not had as many active experiences with other churches, in some of the ways mentioned here, but when I was living on the East Coast during graduate school my best friends and I would worship with several different local churches during Holy Week–sometimes because our master-violin-friend was playing, more often because we wanted to worship and feel close to our Savior during that important time.

    There was one particularly beautiful evening where we stood together in an Episcopal chapel, ringing bells, and singing “Hallelujah” with the choir as additional candles were carried in. Our ward service the next morning was more simple, but one of my friends still carried a bell. During Sacrament she stood in the midst of a sitting down congregation and started ringing it, as the same hymn was sung. We stood up to join her, and watched as our Stake President and Bishop on the stand did too. Soon everyone was standing. Initiating this tradition from the Episcopal church was also simple, but it made the day feel more holy and more whole.

  9. Heather Sather says:

    Hi Kelly Ann, I’m new to this forum so I don’t know if it’s appropriate to ask if the UU church is in SLC. I am so hungry for a choir experience like that you described. thanks.

  1. April 17, 2013

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