Planning Our Music Service

We've put this together to help plan our upcoming Special Music Service, usually where I am the Visiting Speaker taking the place of the sermon as well as partial "guest musician." The following should address most of your questions and information needs. The UUA recently published this helpful guide on preparing for guest speakers in general. Questions, comments and clarifications all welcome. Thank you again for having me, and I look forward to spending a lovely morning with you.


Select a theme, if you haven’t done so yet. You’ll find that each of the services has some suggested readings and opening/closing words if you want to use them – but they are only suggestions, choose what you feel fits! The writeups for each service you can copy use in the church newsletter and electronic communications about upcoming services. (see Publicity below).


The Special Music Service takes the place of the sermon and runs between 20 and 25 minutes. I’m also happy to do one of my songs for the Prelude, typically between the Welcome/Announcements and the Chalice Lighting. I have a cedar flute (native American) that makes for a lovely 30-45 seconds to bring us back from a silent meditation, if you would like to do so – your choice.

Everything else you should plan fairly normally. Please plan to have your accompanist there for any gathering music, the offertory and the hymns. A closing hymn is always nice, but I definitely recommend no more than 2 total to keep the service from getting too lengthy, particularly with speakers for Joys and Concerns (as I have heard on occasion, "blessed are the brief" :)

Little people are welcome to stay for the service or depart for RE per normal – either way is fine with me. Experiencing live music is always a good thing even if the Special Music Service messages are geared primarily towards adults.

I do ask one favor – if there is a "speaker introduction" it is usually best to do it right before the Sermon (the Special Music Service part). It seems to make a nice clean break, particularly if it follows a Meditation. It doesn't need to be lengthy, as I much prefer to have the morning be about the message shared in community than about the messenger!


For Zoom services, I like to log in 45 minutes before the service for a quick broadcast check with whatever instruments I'm using that morning. I have the tech part down pretty well, but there are still opportunities to forget to toggle something. I use my MacBook hardwired into my router at home to minimize disruptions.

In a small sanctuary I am fine working "unplugged" (without amplification). If a sound system/hard of hearing assisted system is used, I need a vocal mic on a tripod stand and another mic cable to connect my acoustic guitar preamp. So 2 inputs total – voice and guitar. I have a mic and stand with me usually if necessary. I can use a wireless headset vocal mic if you prefer, and I can have that with me on advance request.

I generally arrive 45-60 minutes before the service starts so I can get set up and sound checked, warm up for a few minutes in the sanctuary, then set up my CDs and mailing list someplace for after the service, and finally have a few minutes to relax and get centered.

PUBLICITY (if needed)

If appropriate, please link to my website as appropriate from your upcoming services webpage, , and if the church uses Facebook, “Like”-ing and linking to my music page at is appropriate and greatly appreciated!

If you’d like to do so on the church website, Facebook page, Twitter feed etc. - you are free to embed or post a link to this concert video of “Good Things Matter”

Some churches publicize their upcoming services in the Religion sections of local papers. If so you might find it handy to download one of these high-resolution print quality photos (you may of course also use them for online purposes). If we are also planning a concert during my visit, we have an additional set of appropriate materials to publicize the event to the entertainment media and general public.

The following blurb can be used as a speaker introduction, or for the back of the order of service:

Our guest this morning is Andrew McKnight, former environmental engineer turned award-winning singer/songwriter and guitarist from the foot of northern Virginia’s Blue Ridge. His musical journey is nearing a million miles of America’s blue highways and scenic backwaters. His music and messages are infused with great reverence and warmth for the human journey and our place on this magnificent blue ball. His latest work Treasures in My Chest is an album and book inspired by incredible experiences and connections made exploring his family history over the last seven years. In addition to his nationally-acclaimed performing and recording career, our fellow UU has devoted much of his energy and passion to causes and issues dear to our faith. Visit him online at


Thank you for continuing to make my life in music possible! I greatly appreciate the simplicity of some things in the digital world, like online payments - my preference is to use Venmo (owned by PayPal but they don't take a fee from me) at In lieu of that, a check made out to me in hand the day of the service is fine, and please let me know ahead of time if you need a W-9 form.