“An Honest Question to Difficult Answers”

Last summer, I was given the opportunity to write an article on music, worship, and anti-racism for the journal Liturgy. My task was to explore what it is to work towards racial reconciliation through church music in non-multicultural congregations. That article was published online on Tuesday and will be out in print next month! The subscriptions are pricey, as is individual article purchase, so my publisher has been gracious enough to give me a link to share that offers free access to my article! The link is below, followed by the Abstract for my article. Enjoy!

“An Honest Question to Difficult Answers: Explorations in Music, Culturalism, and Reconciliation”

The importance of worship music in conversations about congregational health and growth is contested. The perception persists that worship music style is a primary means of determining comfort or belonging for “church shoppers” at a given congregation. Yet actual research shows that it has a more modest role than is assumed.[i] Nevertheless, conversations regarding worship music abound, and with each passing publication we become more and more obsessed with finding and exploiting the correlates between worship music styles and ecclesial success.

Yet there are many styles of worship music, and the style that best expresses the prayer of one person may not best express the prayer of another. Moreover, in a society that is made up of as many and diverse cultures as North America, we begin to discern that cultural distinctiveness is embodied in the music we find pleasing—sometimes to the exclusion of those who differ from us. Yet the church is intended to be the united body of Christ (1 Cor. 12), and we must ask ourselves how we can live into this reality in the realm of music. Can we find ways of worshiping that allow for those who stand beyond our cultural heritage to join in our musical expression of prayer? And, perhaps, we in theirs?

[i] Gerardo Marti, Worship Across the Racial Divide (New York: Oxford, 2012), 80.

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