UCCMA Conference: A Big Success

Dear friends, Many of you know that for the past two years I have been very focused on the planning and coordination of the United Church of Christ Musicians Association biennial conference that was held here in Boston July 9-12. The UCCMA decided several years ago that the conference should be held in Boston, and then somewhat unexpectedly asked ME to form a steering committee that would plan the entire event.

Conference Chair, Susan DeSelms, at the piano. Photo courtesy of Michele Hecht.

With equal parts trepidation and excitement, and lots of encouragement from Pastor Kent, I agreed. This was a challenge that would have NEVER occurred to me to actively seek out, and I was not sure at all that my particular skill set would be sufficient to bring the committee's vision of the conference to fruition, but God provided me with the tools I needed, and with lots and lots of support. In the end, about half of the steering committee came from the United Parish, and included Kent French as clergy coordinator, Kate H. as facility coordinator AND the most amazing registrar the world has ever known, Tim J. as tour guide and transportation manager extraordinaire, Doug J., as opening night multi-UCC church choir coordinator, and last but not least, Trey Pratt - who did everything from organizing the contracts, to planning and coordinating Tuesday night worship at Old North.

Lynd Matt, Susan DeSelms, and Trey Pratt on opening night of the 2017 UCCMA conference. Photo courtesy of Michele Hecht.

Lynd Matt, Susan DeSelms, and Trey Pratt on opening night of the 2017 UCCMA conference. Photo courtesy of Michele Hecht.

When we first began planning our conference, we set out with a few basic objectives:

1. We wanted to show these music ministers, coming from all over the United States and Canada, BOSTON via its churches. So, we planned four very diverse evening worship services in four different parts of metro Boston. Opening night was here in Brookline, Monday night was held at First Church Cambridge, Tuesday night was at Old North Church, and Wednesday night was at Old South Church.

Nightsong at First Church in Cambridge. Photo courtesy of Michele Hecht.

Susanne Ansorg and Anne Azema of Boston Camerata at Old North Church. Photo courtesy of Joan Pritchard.

Choir rehearsal at Old South Church. Photo courtesy of Joan Pritchard.

Worship at Old South Church. Photo courtesy of Michele Hecht.

2. We wanted to fill the attendees with new ideas, inspiration, and send them off with a spring in their step. So, the attendees spent their days on the campus of Simmons College, worshipping, making music, fraternizing, and learning with a truly outstanding cross section of the most inspired and inspiring people in our area, including Nick Page, André de Quadros, Mary Luti, Nancy Taylor, Betsy Burleigh, Michael Ofori, Megan Henderson, Jameson Marvin, Peter and Mary Alice Amidon, Griff Gall, Jane Money, and many others.

Nick Page (middle) leading a session at Simmons. Photo courtesy of Michele Hecht.

Drumming with Michael Ofori at Simmons. Photo courtesy of Joan Pritchard.

Choir rehearsal with Betsy Burleigh at Simmons. Photo courtesy of Joan Pritchard.

Griff Gall leading a session at Simmons. Photo courtesy of Michele Hecht.

3. We wanted to make our attendees feel welcome and as comfortable as possible in a town that is not necessarily famous for its hospitality. So, we took them on a Trolley tour of Boston when they first arrived, we fed them a lovely dinner in Willett Hall on opening night and a catered luncheon on their last day, we provided them complimentary snacks in their air conditioned dorms, we celebrated them with a couple of beautiful post-worship receptions, and we enlisted lots and lots of volunteers to help them find their way.

Tim from United Parish acting as tour guide on the trolley for the conference attendees from all over the country. Photo courtesy of Michele Hecht.

Snacks in the dorm at Simmons. Photo courtesy of Joan Pritchard.

Dinner in Willett Hall at United Parish. Photo courtesy of Michele Hecht.

Reception at Old South Church. Photo courtesy of Michele Hecht.

All in all, we accomplished our goals and then some. Our attendees seemed completely delighted with what we gave them, how we treated them, and what they were able to take home with them. In the process, they formed a new, vibrant community of church musicians. We are so often professionally isolated, seldom having the chance to catch up, reflect on our practices, brainstorm new ideas, and uplift one another in spirit! It was a special gift to get to spend four incredible days with such inspiring, creative, unbound musicians.

Conference attendees watching a workshop at Simmons. Photo courtesy of Joan Pritchard.

 You should know that your staff- myself, Kent, and Trey- made many memorable appearances at the conference, and that United Parish and the work we do was certainly buzzing through many conversations. We could not be more honored to have represented this congregation on a national scale, and to serve as a unifying presence among Boston’s segregated UCC musicians. Our hope is that this labor will bear fruit far beyond the confines of the conference, and that the work we did will have an impact in our worship, in our building use, and in our connections across Boston, and the rest of the country!

Assistant Director of Music at United Parish, Trey Pratt, at Old South Church. Photo courtesy of Michele Hecht.

Of course, we have no greater thanks to give than to the amazing gift this congregation has given to UCCMA, and to the church staff who have worked tirelessly, preparing every foreseeable nuance of the event. Special thanks to Kate H., Tim J., Doug J., Bill G., Pat H., Julie A., Carrie M., Deb H., David R., Dot G., Cindy L., Fred Pineau, Joe Hickson, Marla Walters, and so many others who offered support either in work or spirit. Thank you, THANK YOU, from the bottom of our hearts, for your love, prayers, encouragement, and support,

Yours in song,

Susan DeSelms

 

Check out additional photos from the conference closing worship on July 12, 2017 at Old South Church here.