It is with sadness and gratitude we reflect on the life and contribution of Robin Sheldon, who passed away on 10th August 2022, aged 90. He was the founder of Music and Worship Foundation, the charity which now oversees the work of Engage Worship. Initially called The Music and Worship Trust, the charity was registered in 1984, although Robin’s obituary in the Church Times reports that the idea first came to him as early as 1974. It described Robin as “one of the most eminent church musicians of his generation”, and calls MWF his “lasting legacy” that “continues to provide a standard of excellence in church worship”.

Robin was classically trained at the Royal Academy of Music as an organist/pianist. He became organist during John Stott’s ministry at All Souls', Langham Place in London from 1956, and reported that there he was ”warmed to the joy of great congregational singing, and involved in making music of all kinds.” (Quotes from Robin taken from a 2011 edititon of Baseline, formerly the MWF newsletter.)

After that he worked for many years in schools and then as director of music at Holy Trinity Church, Hounslow. He shared that this parish provided “a new experience for us, and I believe that we were given new insight for what was needed in the life of a church with a vigorous spiritual thrust, especially recognising the work and power of the Holy Spirit.”

Robin’s vision for MWF was to encourage a breadth of music in worship. The organisation sought to provide an alternative to the formal, traditional and strictly choral nature of other organisations working with church music. Connections were made with a variety of streams including Taize, Celtic Worship, The St Thomas More Centre and centres of charismatic renewal such as Holy Trinity Brompton and St Michael le Belfry in York. There were many other individuals involved such as Robin Page, David Peacock, Norman Warren, Roger Mayor, Geoff Weaver, Paul Inwood, Andrew Maries and Noel Tredinnick. Robin reflected: 

“We had opportunities to address synods, clergy conferences and to partake in training for many of the growing needs, e.g. composition, arranging, handling musicians who saw the need to pray through the management of change… MWF was relevant, and began to make its principles known, and offer workshops, conferences and courses all round the country.”

Alongside breadth of music, MWF also existed to “promote a true spirit of worship which comes from a deep movement of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men and women”, and “to encourage the pastoral role of musical leaders”. We are so grateful for these foundations, the people who were trained and released through Robin’s ministry, and we’re encouraged to note the ways in which Engage Worship and Evergreen are able to continue Robin’s vision almost 50 years on. The book edited by Robin, In Spirit and in Truth (1989, Hodder & Stoughton) provided invaluable material for Sam & Sara’s Whole Life Worship in 2017, and it is our prayer that the passion of Robin and many other MWF pioneers will continue to resonate through the church’s music and worship for many years to come.