Fresh support for churches that lack musical leadership is being launched by the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM).
The 'Lift Up Your Voice' course is designed for churches and worship leaders who are struggling to engage their congregations in sung worship.
Rosemary Field, the RSCM's Head of Education and a former diocesan music advisor, is passionate about helping people to connect with God through music, and came up with the idea for a course after visiting many churches that lack worship leaders.
"There are thousands of churches across the UK where there is simply no one to lead their music – neither a player nor a singer," she says.
"But for at least half of our Christian history we have sung unaccompanied in any key that we fancy, things that were known to illiterate congregations, learnt by ear. It can't be impossible to do something."
For this reason she has established 'Lift Up Your Voice', in the hope of working in partnership with current and aspiring worship leaders to teach skills and offer resources that will help them to engage churchgoers more easily.
Participants will be taught ways of singing effectively, and will be given new song suggestions to introduce to their congregations. The day-long course will also offer ready-made service outlines for use by churches that share their pastor or vicar with other congregations, and therefore do not always have ordained clergy to lead the service.
Ms Field has made an appeal to worship leaders for ideas that they could share with struggling churches, some of which may go for weeks without singing. She says the quality of the end result is not the most important factor, but that it is vital to give people the opportunity to pour their hearts out to God and praise him through song.
"I wouldn't care what key it's in and whether it's in tune, but the point is they would be making music in worship. It doesn't need a priest, it just needs someone with a bit of courage to start things," she says.
"What we need to do now is to get on with teaching people some simple things that they can sing in worship, which are uplifting, and which give people the chance to unite mind and heart and voice and soul, in a way that really only music can," she concludes.
The first courses will be run in Cullompton, Devon, on 1 March and Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, on 5 April. For more information go to www.rscm.com/courses or phone 01722 424843.