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Christian Congregational Music: Local and Global Perspectives Conference

Call for Papers

Christian Congregational Music: Local and Global Perspectives Conference

Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford, United Kingdom

1-3 August 2013

Congregational music-making has long been a vital and vibrant practice within Christian communities worldwide. Congregational music reflects, informs, and articulates local convictions and concerns as well as global flows of ideas and products. Congregational song can unify communities of faith across geographical and cultural boundaries, while simultaneously serving as a contested practice used to inscribe, challenge, and negotiate identities. Many twenty-first century congregational song repertories are transnational genres that cross boundaries of region, nation, and denomination. The various meanings, uses, and influence of these congregational song repertoires cannot be understood without an exploration of these musics’ local roots and global routes. 

This conference seeks to explore the multifaceted interaction between local and global dimensions of Christian congregational music by drawing from perspectives across academic disciplines, including anthropology, sociology, history, music studies, and theology. In particular, the conference welcomes papers addressing or engaging with one or more of the following six themes: 

  • The Politics of Congregational Singing

The choices congregations make to include (or exclude) certain kinds of music in their worship often have significant political ramifications. Papers on this topic may consider: what roles does music play in local congregational politics? How do congregations use musical performance, on the one hand, to build and maintain boundaries, or, on the other, to promote reconciliation between members of differing ethnicities, denominations, regions, or religions?

  • Popular Music in/as Christian Worship

Christian worship has long incorporated musical styles, sounds, or songs considered ‘popular’ or ‘vernacular.’ To what extent does congregational music-making maintain, conflate, or challenge the boundaries between ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’? How do commercial music industries influence the production, distribution, and reception of congregational music, and, conversely, how do the concerns of congregational singing shape praxis within the realm of commercial music? 

  • From Mission Hymns to Indigenous Hymnodies

This theme invites critical exploration of how congregational music has shaped—and been shaped by—Christian missionary endeavours of the past, present, and future. How have colonialism and postcolonialism influenced congregational musical ideologies and practices? Who defines an ‘indigenous hymnody,’ and how has this category informed music-making in the postmissionary church? What does the future of music in Christian missions hold?

  • Congregational Music in the University Classroom

What preconceived notions of Christian beliefs, Christian music-making, or the Christian community do instructors face in the 21st century? What should the study of congregational music involve in the training of clergy and lay ministers? How do the experiences and perspectives of university students challenge the way congregational music is practiced and taught?

  • Towards a More Musical Theology

Though it has been over twenty-five years since Jon Michael Spencer called for the cross-pollination of musicological and theological studies in ‘theomusicology,’ the theological mainstream still rarely pays attention to music. How might acknowledging the diversity of human musical traditions influence theological reflection on ecclesiology, eschatology, or ethics? What might insights from musicology and ethnomusicology bring to bear on contemporary debates within Christian theology?

  • A Futurology of Congregational Music

Papers on this subtheme will offer creative, considered reflection on the future of congregational music. What new emerging shapes and forms will—or should—congregational worship music take? Will congregational song traditions become more localized, or will they be further determined by global commercial industries? What must scholars do to provide more nuanced, relevant, or critical perspectives on Christian congregational music?

We are now accepting proposals (maximum 250 words) for individual papers and organised panels of three papers.  A link to the online proposal form can be found on the conference website at

Proposals must be received by 14 December 2012.

Notifications of acceptance will be sent by 28 January 2013, and conference registration will begin on 2 February 2013. Further instructions and information will be made available on the conference website.   

Conference Information


All conference sessions will be held at Ripon College Cuddesdon, a theological college affiliated with the University of Oxford. The college is located seven miles south-east of the Oxford city centre and is accessible by car or bus.  


Fees for conference registration, room and board will be posted in January.  Ripon College Cuddesdon has extended reasonable rates to make this conference affordable for domestic and international scholars in various career stages. 

There are a small number of bursaries available for graduate student presenters. Students interested in being considered for a bursary should tick the box on the paper proposal form. 

Conference schedule

The schedule for the three-day conference maintains a unique balance of presentations from featured speakers, traditional conference panel presentations, roundtable discussions, and film documentary screenings. A draft conference programme will be available in February 2013 on the conference website. 

Featured Speakers

The Rev Canon Professor Martyn Percy

Professor of Theological Education, King’s College London

Principal, Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford, UK 

Dr Zoe Sherinian

Associate Professor and Chair of Ethnomusicology

University of Oklahoma, Norman, USA

Dr Suzel Riley

Reader in Ethnomusicology, School of Creative Arts

Queen’s University, Belfast, UK

Dr Marie Jorritsma

Senior Lecturer in Ethnomusicology

University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Dr Amos Yong

J Rodman Williams Professor of Theology 

Regent University School of Divinity, Virginia Beach, USA

Dr Gerardo Marti

L Richardson King Associate Professor of Sociology

Davidson College, Davidson, USA

Dr Roberta King

Associate Professor of Communication and Ethnomusicology

Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, USA

Dr Clive Marsh

Director of Learning and Teaching

Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Leicester, UK

Dr Byron Dueck

Lecturer in Ethnomusicology

Open University, UK

Conference Organisers and Conveners

The Rev Canon Professor Martyn Percy, Ripon College Cuddesdon, Oxford

Dr Monique Ingalls, University of Cambridge

Tom Wagner, Royal Holloway, University of London

Mark Porter, City University, London

For all programme-related queries, please contact: