North Harbour Music Ministry

The Music Ministry, in the Catholic Community of North Harbour, is responsible for the music preparation for Sunday mass and for developing music in the parish more generally.

Summary of Learnings

Ben Marshall has been employed by the Catholic Community of North Harbour for the past five years. As Music Minister he is responsible for the music preparations for Sunday Night Mass (Celebrate Sunday) and the Sunday morning mass (Families Come Gather) and for developing music in the parish more generally.

Ben first developed an interest in music ministry when he was invited to participate as a volunteer in music ministry for a local parish youth mass. Although Ben had always attended mass during his childhood with his parents, it was his love of music and involvement in the youth mass which saw him attending mass on his own initiative as the co-ordinator made it enjoyable.

The music ministry at North Harbour is based on a shared love of music. Ben said “When you are asking people into ministry there has to be something in it for them. It has to be fun, nourishing”.

The people that participate in Music Ministry enjoy the chance to play in a band, sing on a microphone and have the satisfaction of playing. When you have an employed person leading a ministry it is easier to attract volunteers.

For the Sunday evening mass (Celebrate Sunday), there are about 40 musicians he can call on. Rather than have a roster, he sends a reminder text on Sunday mornings to this group.

This process has seemed to work mostly effectively for the young people involved. There is usually a response from between 6 and 20 people who are willing to come along and be part of the music for that mass.


The group gathers at 4pm to rehearse for a 6pm mass. In Ben’s words “by the time that the group gets there, I have already selected the music and planned the liturgy, the musicians then are free to come along and enjoy.” The Sunday evening mass is followed by a community gathering, or once a month for “pasta night.”

Important to his work in this ministry has been the opportunity for formation and training. Ben was supported by the parish to attend a music conference in America and the parish has hosted well known international musicians who have helped to inspire and develop the ministry.

The Cantor Club is another opportunity for people in the parish to share a love of music. This club is for people in the parish who want to learn to sing. They gather and practice singing and singing in harmony and Ben provides coaching. The group gathers once per month and usually has about 30-40 people attending.

The group sings popular music and the evening is relaxed and social. The group gives people the chance to enjoy singing and build confidence. The evening is not focussed on liturgy but is a vocal workshop.

The objective of the group is to sing for fun, to create a welcoming environment.

The outcome of the group has been that they have a group of people in the parish who have developed their confidence and ability in singing and naturally want to share this with the community at Sunday mass; this has been a side benefit of the program.

The Club has also performed at local community and school events.

Ben is now working on developing the Sunday morning mass at St Cecilia’s – and they have a Tuesday night rehearsal. In this rehearsal time they have periods where they practice for mass and then other times they just practice playing their instruments and improving their musicianship.

In inviting people into ministry it’s more effective to tap people on the shoulder, to make a personal request rather than advertise in the newsletter. Ben finds it effective when asking people to be involved to tell people why you would love them to be involved, what benefit is in it for them and why he thinks that they will be effective.

Once every two months they have an Open Mic Night which Ben co-ordinates. It is usually attended by 100 people and there are usually 20 acts that perform. The intention of the evening is to celebrate music and to encourage people to make music together. They prefer to have people come together to perform rather than have solos acts.

The Open Mic Night is an event that brings the two communities together; and it has been an important part of the parish amalgamation. The evening is very enjoyable and people bring along work colleagues, friends, family – in this way the event is extended to people outside of the community that would normally attend Sunday worship


The parish also offers other opportunities for musicians – the Ignite Retreat (which is for whole families of people engaged in ministry). The retreat has a focus on music. These retreats have provided people the chance to develop community.

Ben also leads a week long retreat for young musicians held in Terrigal during December. The young people participate in a live in retreat playing, practicing and enjoying music. There is time each day for reflection and prayer.


Ben said “Fr Peter Wieneke had a vision for liturgy in this parish. As Music Minister it has been my job to work towards making that vision a reality. Liturgy needs to be engaging and there are so many ways through music, lighting and movement that the liturgy can be made meaningful. Of course activity needs to help people to engage with and understand what is happening in the liturgy, it can’t be distracting, but it should be enjoyable”

Summary of Learnings

  • The music ministry has been built on a love of music which has had the impact of building up a group of people in the parish who share this gift with the community at Sunday liturgy
  • Cantor Club is a workshop that is open to anyone to attend who would like to learn to sing and to sing in harmony. The Club is about singing for enjoyment and the group enjoys learning songs from a wide cross section of contemporary sources.
  • There are many opportunities in the parish for those looking to improve their musicianship including workshops, Ignite Retreats, and a week long workshop for musicians held once per year.


  • The youth mass on Sunday evenings is co-ordinated by the Music Minister; the group gathers at 4pm to rehearse, notification is sent out via text message.
  • The parish has a regular “Open Mic Night”. People register to perform; they usually have about 20 acts and on average 100 people attending. People often bring family, friends or work colleagues to the Open Mic Night
  • The Music Minister is a paid employee of the parish. He says that when you have someone who is paid, it makes it easier to attract volunteers. You can make it enjoyable and nourishing for those who volunteer for ministry.

Catholic Diocese of
Broken Bay

Building 2, 423 Pennant Hills Road
Pennant Hills NSW 2120

PO Box 340
Pennant Hills NSW 1715

Phone 02 9847 0000
Fax 02 9847 0001

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