Church organist Alan Greaves was subjected to a "brutal attack" on his way to midnight mass on Christmas Eve, police have said.
The 68-year-old from Sheffield, who later died from his injuries, was described as "highly respected" in his community and police appealed for any information to assist their investigation.
Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick, of South Yorkshire Police, said the motive is not yet known but based on the injuries he suffered, it is likely that a weapon was used.
Mr Fenwick said: "At 11pm on Christmas Eve Mr Greaves left his house and walked towards the nearby church where he performs as an organist. Between his house and that location he was subjected to the brutal attack. At 11.15pm a member of the public found Mr Greaves and called the emergency services.
"He was a family man and the family are devastated about what has taken place. I would like to appeal on their behalf and on my behalf for anyone who might have witnessed any part of this incident or anyone who has information that could assist this investigation to please contact us."
He said officers could not think of any motive why anyone would choose to attack Mr Greaves and that robbery is one of the lines of inquiry they are pursuing.
The community is described as being appalled by what had happened and a number of witnesses have already come forward.
Rev Canon Simon Bessant, from St Saviour's Church, worked closely with Mr Greaves and his wife Maureen, a church community worker.
He has paid tribute to Mr Greaves, and said: "He was a good man and this was an evil act. He was a gentle soul. He wasn't foolish - he would have handled the situation as best as anyone would but we don't know what he encountered. His wife wants justice but she doesn't want vengeance. She is not embittered but obviously she wants this person to be caught."
The Bishop of Sheffield, Dr Steven Croft, has sent a message to every parish in his diocese asking for prayers for Mr Greaves, his wife Maureen and their family. In it Dr Croft said: "Please would you hold Alan's family and the church family at High Green, with Simon Bessant the Vicar and the wider family of Church Army in your prayers in the coming days and especially this Sunday morning. I plan to be with the congregation at High Green on Sunday morning."