The Autumn 2014 issue of Ecclesial Practices is a special issue, in partnership with us, dedicated to congregational music. Ecclesial Practices publishes articles and book reviews at the intersection of ethnographic and other qualitative approaches with theological approaches to the study of a variety of ecclesial practices and contexts of practice. Mark Porter's introductory article for the issue which describes the development of the field of Christian Congregational Music Studies can be read online free of charge here.
Congregational music-making is a vital and vibrant practice within Christian communities worldwide. Music can both unite and divide: at times, it brings together individuals and communities across geographical and cultural boundaries while, at others, it divides communities by embodying conflicting meanings and symbolizing oppositional identities. Many factors influence congregational music in its contemporary global context, posing theoretical and methodological challenges for the academic study of congregational music-making. Increasingly, coming to a robust understanding of congregational music's meaning, influence, and significance requires a mixture of complementary approaches. Including perspectives from musicology, religious and theological studies, anthropology and sociology of religion, media studies, political economy, and popular music studies, this series presents a cluster of landmark titles exploring music-making within contemporary Christianity which will further Congregational Music Studies as an important new academic field of study.
Books in this series:
Christian Congregational Music: Performance, Identity and Experience
eds. Monique Ingalls, Carolyn Landau, and Tom Wagner
Christian Congregational Music explores the role of congregational music in Christian religious experience, examining how musicians and worshippers perform, identify with and experience belief through musical praxis. Contributors from a broad range of fields, including music studies, theology, literature, and cultural anthropology, present interdisciplinary perspectives on a variety of congregational musical styles - from African American gospel music, to evangelical praise and worship music, to Mennonite hymnody - within contemporary Europe and North America. In addressing the themes of performance, identity and experience, the volume explores several topics of interest to a broader humanities and social sciences readership, including the influence of globalization and mass mediation on congregational music style and performance; the use of congregational music to shape multifaceted identities; the role of mass mediated congregational music in shaping transnational communities; and the function of music in embodying and imparting religious belief and knowledge. In demonstrating the complex relationship between ‘traditional’ and ‘contemporary’ sounds and local and global identifications within the practice of congregational music, the plurality of approaches represented in this book, as well as the range of musical repertoires explored, aims to serve as a model for future congregational music scholarship.
Congregational Music-Making and Community in a Mediated Age
eds. Anna E. Nekola and Tom Wagner
Congregational music can be an act of praise, a vehicle for theology, an action of embodied community, as well as a means to a divine encounter. This multidisciplinary anthology approaches congregational music as media in the widest sense - as a multivalent communication action with technological, commercial, political, ideological, and theological implications, where processes of mediated communication produce shared worlds and beliefs.
Bringing together a range of voices, promoting dialogue across a range of disciplines, each author approaches the topic of congregational music from his or her own perspective, facilitating cross-disciplinary connections while also showcasing a diversity of outlooks on the roles that music and media play in Christian experience. The authors break important new ground in understanding the ways that music, media, and religious belief and praxis become ‘lived theology’ in our media age, revealing the rich and diverse ways that people are living, experiencing, and negotiating faith and community through music.
Contemporary Worship Music and Everyday Musical Lives
Whilst Contemporary Worship Music arose out of a desire to relate the music of the church to the music of everyday life, this function can quickly be called into question by the diversity of musical lives present in contemporary society. Mark Porter examines the relationship between individuals’ musical lives away from a Contemporary Worship Music environment and their diverse experiences of music within it, presenting important insights into the complex and sometimes contradictory relationships between congregants’ musical lives within and outside of religious worship.
Through detailed ethnographic investigation Porter challenges common evangelical ideals of musical neutrality, suggesting the importance of considering musical tastes and preferences through an ethical lens. He employs cosmopolitanism as an interpretative framework for understanding the dynamics of diverse musical communities, positioning it as a stronger alternative to common assimilationist and multiculturalist models.
Worship Wars, Music and Identity: The Case of the Canadian Mennonites
The Worship Wars and the People of Peace is the first study of the music of the contemporary "worship wars"-conflicts over church music that continue to animate and divide Protestants today-to be based on long-term in-person observation and interviews. It tells the story of the musical lives of three Canadian Mennonite congregations at the height of these conflicts in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Mennonites are among the most music-centered Christian groups in North America, and they felt the conflict deeply.
The congregations studied span the spectrum of the wars, from traditional to blended to contemporary worship styles, and from evangelical to liberal Protestant theologies. At their core, the book argues, worship wars are not fought in order to please congregants' musical taste nor to satisfy the theological principles held by a denomination. Instead, the relationships and meanings shaped through individuals’ experiences singing in the particular ways afforded by each style of worship are most profoundly at stake in the worship wars.