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Call for Papers 2021

The Sixth Biennial Christian Congregational Music: Local and Global Perspectives Conference
Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford, United Kingdom
2-6 August 2021                                  

Congregational music-making is a vital and vibrant practice within Christian communities worldwide. It reflects, informs, and articulates convictions and concerns that are irreducibly local even as it flows along global networks. Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Christian communities are reaffirming sacred music traditions, exploring digital technologies, and discovering innovative ways to remain connected and minister to believers during uncertain and unprecedented times. The summer of 2021 marks the ten year anniversary of the Christian Congregational Music conference. Since its inception, the goal of the conference has been to expand the avenues of scholarly inquiry into congregational music-making by bringing together world-class scholars and practitioners to explore the varying cultural, social, and spiritual roles music plays in the life of various Christian communities around the world. In spite of the challenges the pandemic poses to our traditional means of physically gathering at Ripon College in Cuddesdon, the Christian Congregational Music conference committee is working to develop ways for us to celebrate its ten year milestone in the safest and most engaging formats available. Therefore, we are pleased to invite proposals for the sixth biennial conference between Monday, August 2 and Friday, August 6, 2021. The conference will feature guest speakers, roundtables and workshops that reflect the ever-broadening scope of research and practice in Christian congregational music-making around the world.

Paper proposals for individual papers, organized panels, or roundtables on any topic related to the study of congregational music-making will be considered, but we especially welcome papers that explore one or more of the following themes: 

Health and Wellbeing in Congregational Music

Recent research increasingly demonstrates the rich intersections between music, wellbeing and spiritual experience. What intersections can we trace between congregational music and (physical or mental) health, trauma, resilience, wellbeing or therapy? Which aspects of congregational musicking play a role in the health of individuals and in which situations can congregational music making reinforce the wellbeing of congregation? How can congregational music and church songs relate to practices and methods in music therapy? And where, if anywhere, could ‘the sacred’ be located at the intersection of congregational music and health?

Hymn and Liturgy Creation

Never before have styles and genres of hymns and liturgy been as different and diverse as can be observed today. In late-modern societies, people decide for themselves what makes a good hymn, or a good liturgy: the question of who has the authority to define the criteria is neither always clear, nor uncontested. What makes a good hymn, what a proper worship service? How do church musicians and clergy deal with this diversity when creating new hymns and re-shaping worship? From where do they draw inspiration? How can historic practices of hymn and liturgy creation inspire new forms to hymns and liturgy today?

Congregational Music: Education, Teaching, and Pedagogy

Christian music is learnt within congregations, taught as part of educational programs, and forms part of much wider processes of pedagogy, formation and instructions. How does faith play a role in teaching music and what roles does music play in faith formation? What makes a good practice of congregational music education, and what are its pitfalls? What are pedagogic particularities specifically required to teach church/congregational music? Where do conversations on different music pedagogies take place, and in what way can they be theologically reflected upon?

Global Perspectives in Gospel Music

Developed in U.S. urban centers as early as the 1920s, gospel music as a distinct Christian genre is almost a century old. How has gospel music impacted congregational musics around the world? How has gospel music moved beyond the congregational in some contexts? How do gospel hybrids speak to identity, heritage and congregational engagement in music making? How have international and national choirs encouraged the spread of gospel music and gospel music education inside and outside of the church?

Congregational Music & Activism

Practices of collective musicking can often be observed as part of broader activist movements, and activist causes often have a significant spiritual dimension. How does congregational music speak to political divides and how has the rise of populism impacted congregational song? How have congregational music traditions explored social justice themes in the past and how are they doing so today? What (old and new) conversations have been sparked by the Civil Rights Movement’s Freedom Songs or by the Black Lives Matter Movement? What, if any, repertory in congregational music could reveal new layers of meaning related to climate change and environmental activism?

Post-colonial Streams Across the Caribbean, South America, and First Peoples Communities

Attention to post-colonial dynamics of power and justice is an increasingly important element in reflecting upon contemporary congregational practices. In highly indigenized societies, how does the congregational music reflect the people that we serve? How have scholar-musicians been developing new culturally affirming liturgies and hymns? How do indigenization and ‘inculturalization’ manifest in Christian congregations and non-church spaces? How does congregational music reify identity and cultural heritage in indigenous communities? How do common liturgies and song repertoires connect Christian communities across borders and island nations?

Congregational Music in the Wake of COVID-19 Global Pandemic

The global COVID-19 pandemic has affected congregational musicking in profound ways, through restrictions on in-person practices and through a proliferation of mediatized and distanced forms of worship. How have churches and ministries adjusted weekly worship under quarantine and how have worship arts ministries help lead churches’ responses? How have music departments and worship arts ministries used technology to encourage musical worship online? What have been some pros and cons to streaming worship services and what have best practices looked like? How has congregational music ministered beyond traditional worship services during the pandemic? Which theoretical perspectives help us better understand the implications of all these changes and what fundamental liturgical and musical issues has the pandemic brought to the fore?

Times, Seasons and Liturgical Calendars

Congregational music practices vary significantly across times and calendars whether these chart liturgical, seasonal, personal or societal change and variation. What can we learn from focusing on particular moments, changes, or modes of temporality? How do periods of lament, abstinence or celebration manifest in different musical dynamics? How do the musical rhythms of liturgically-focused churches contrast with those who find their temporality elsewhere? How do yearly patterns of summer festivals, album recordings, or 24-7 music and worship shape temporal awareness? How has the musical marking of time changed during the current pandemic?

We are now accepting proposals (maximum 250 words) for individual papers and for organised panels consisting of three papers as well as roundtable proposals. The online proposal form can be found on the conference website:

Proposals must be received by 14 December 2020. Notifications of acceptance will be sent by 31 January 2021 alongside up to date information regarding the conference format (i.e., online, hybrid, etc.). Conference registration will begin on 15 February 2021. Further instructions and information will be made available on the conference website at Questions should be directed to Anna Nekola.