First United Methodist Church of Chelsea pastor Joy Barrett summed it up well when asked how music fits into a service and why it’s important.
“Music is central to Christian worship,” she said. “Music expresses what words alone cannot express. Music draws us into the presence of God. Through music we experience fear, wonder, passion, pleasure, conviction, encouragement, comfort. Music helps us learn and remember; music brings people together. Music speaks to the part of us that wants to be well, physically, emotionally, spiritually.”
Randy Umfleet, who is the Director of Music Ministries at First United Methodist Church of Chelsea, understands this all too well. Since arriving at Chelsea First in November 2021, he has worked hard to consistently bring a vibrant, unique and meaningful musical experience to the church.
After hearing compliments being made about the music in the church, Sun Times News (STN) reached out to Umfleet to see what the compliments are all about.
We started by asking: what are the goals of the music program?
“My purpose and mission is to apply moving and meaningful music along with other elements of the arts to the life of the church to elevate corporate and private times of worship,” he replied. “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, hymns, service music, contemporary praise music choirs and gospel music, is used to praise God.”
He concluded his answer by saying, “Colossians 3:16 really sums it up… “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. , singing with grace in your hearts, Lord’.”
Before coming to Chelsea, Umfleet had lived in the West Palm Beach area of Florida and served 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 before that he was at 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 work background in music education, theater and production. He said he has had the privilege of working with choirs ranging from 35 members to 300 members, as well as orchestras and instrumental groups; working with secular and Christian artists to provide backup choirs and orchestras, serving as program director for a crusade ministry for several years, and performing in professional theater for several summers.
“Randy is a talented musician and stylist/worship leader,” Barrett said. “Drawing on 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 approaches worship in a way that speaks to the whole person, creating opportunities to encounter God’s loving grace, learn and practice faith, and 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 mainstream worship.”
STN asked Barrett if there’s anything in particular she wants the community to know.
“Randy is challenging us to remember that we have a message to share with our community: believing in a God of infinite grace and love for all people, we are a church that welcomes all people, without judgment or reservation,” she said. “We base ourselves on the Great Commandment: to love God with all that we have and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Following the example of Jesus, we embrace people who are often overlooked or marginalized, encourage questions, promote social justice, defend 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 happening with music at Chelsea First.
“My goal would be to let the community know that music is an important part of First United Methodist Church of Chelsea,” he said. “I also want the community to know that the music that is heard and performed in the church is probably not what most people stereotype the music in a church to be. I believe in using different genres of music style and instrumentation. I welcome instrumentalists who wish to have an opportunity to perform where their talents are valued and I also encourage young people to get involved in music here at Chelsea First.