Annual Conference – Sectionals by Topic

Below are the breakout sessions, which we call “sectionals,” for our 2024 Annual Conference. These sessions are offered by a variety of presenters on a variety of topics.


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Practical and/or Skill-building Workshop

Collection of Texts, Tunes, Hymns, or Songs

Panel, Colloquium, Conversational

Historical and/or Scholarly Presentation


Practical and/or Skill-building Workshop

Empowering Songwriters, Musicians, and More with My.Hymnary’s Music Publishing Platform
Will Groenendyk and Harry Plantinga
This Sectional will be streamed live for Digital Conference participants.
Sponsored by Peter Irvine in memory of Harry Eskew, FHS

Are you an author or composer, looking for a way to publish and distribute your songs? Or do you represent a congregation that would like to make resources for a custom collection of songs available? Or maybe you represent a denomination or publisher looking for a way to publish a new hymnal online and make additional resources available for the songs. My.Hymnary provides free, simple but powerful music publishing tools, allowing everyone from church musicians and independent songwriters to churches and entire denominations to organize and distribute their own collections of music. This sectional explores the benefits of publishing your songs through My.Hymnary. It then shows how to create a custom collection on My.Hymnary, add songs, receive royalties, and distribute your collection through a custom website, through iOS and Android mobile apps, and in some cases through itself.


Seasons By Heart: Paperless Music for the Church Year
Adam Wood

Paperless music – music transmitted orally, without direct reference to notated scores or lyric sheets – has a unique capacity to engage worshipping communities and encourage full-bodied musical participation.

Inspired by, and drawing from, the work of Music that Makes Community, the Wild Goose Worship Group, Taize, and other communal-singing traditions, this sectional will present musical options and logistical inspiration for incorporating seasonally-appropriate paperless songs into the worship repertoire of conventional (paper or screen-based) singing communities.


Courage to Enter the Song: Making Congregational Singing More Inclusive for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities
John Allen Bankson

There has been much written over the past three decades on disability inclusion in the church, including making the worship space itself more accommodating, but very little about the specific content of our congregational singing and our approach to congregational participation: that is, what we sing and how we teach it. As a pastor and church musician with over 25 years’ experience, and as the parent of an adult child with an intellectual disability, John Allen Bankson examines how to make the church’s song more inclusive, not only in terms of what we choose to sing, but also in terms of how we create a truly inclusive worship experience by incorporating the principles of universal design.


Superior Singing: How to inspire singers of all abilities to improve their craft
Scot Crandal
Sponsored by Karl Moyer in memory of Carolyn S Moyer

It’s probably safe to say that everyone wants to be a better singer, so why is it that improvement is often elusive? How can we improve our singing over time, and inspire others to do the same? Whether you’re a choir director, choir member, cantor, or soloist, learn how to easily apply (and teach) ten fundamentals of singing that will help any singer.


Children & Hymnody: Awaken & Engage
Karol Kimmell
This Sectional will be streamed live for Digital Conference participants.

Discover ways to awaken interest and engage participation from children in our beloved assemblies’ hymns, traditional and new. Through the collection of hymns presented, discover and learn to recognize the elements of story, text, poetry, rhythm and melody that will interest children and awaken in them a love of participating in, even leading, congregational song.


Sharpening the Repertoire – Finding the Unique Voice of the Congregation
Kai Ton Chau and Chan Gyu Jang

Worship planners and song leaders have an important task – choosing congregational songs for Sunday worship that unify the gathered people in Godward praise, thanksgiving, lament, and petition as well as human-ward “teaching and admonishment” (Colossians 3:16). With a vast and rich body of historical hymnody and contemporary worship songs, the question for worship planners is, how do we choose songs that express the unique voice of the congregation?

In this sectional, we look beyond song styles and instrumentation and explore several aspects of developing a repertoire of our congregational song. Firstly, church musicians need to find and develop a communal voice—songs that express the communal faith, stories, and culture of the congregation. Secondly, we must listen to the stories and testimonies of individuals in our congregation. Church musicians need to recognize that the individuals’ unique faith journeys shape the communal voice, and, in turn, the common repertoire nurtures the individuals’ faith formation. Thirdly, the congregational voice must be prophetic as Christ-followers strive to be salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16) while living counterculturally. Lastly, the voice must also be pastoral—giving hope to the people, nurturing them, and guiding them.


Songs that Fit: Crafting Congregational Songs for Specific Needs
Jorge Lockward and Amanda Powell
This Sectional will be streamed live for Digital Conference participants.

What do you do when endless searches through songbooks, Google,, and your laptop fail to reveal the right song for a worship moment?

YOU MAKE ONE UP! — You create a “song-that-fits”

The gift of creativity and improvisation is present in each and every one of us. All it takes is a little daring accompanied by a few tried-and-true techniques and… Voilà! A song-that-fits is born.

This hands-on workshop will provide approaches, examples and the opportunity to write and improvise congregational songs that respond to particular needs of your congregation.


Singing Dangerously: How Christians in persecuted regions endure with Christian song
Frank Fortunato

From Genesis to Revelation, the Scriptures reveal a motif of persecution. Before he became king, David, the warrior-musician, lived in dangerous situations, mostly on the run from a jealous, unpredictable King Saul. David kept two sets of weapons in his arsenal. He not only wielded his sword for battle, but wielded his musical instrument to accompany Psalms of praise and lament. He knew how to face a dangerous situation. He sang! Biblical, vibrant worship that is culturally relevant will sustain God’s people through trial. “Singing dangerously” is a title that plays or toys with words. It could mean: “singing through dangerous times,” or “I will do something dangerous, and sing during my trials. Referencing historical snapshots along with present-day narratives, this presentation will reveal the ways people endured trials through worship. The presentation will include a brief introduction to Heart Sounds International, a volunteer fellowship that encourages musicians from emerging local churches in restricted parts of the world to compose Scripture-based worship songs using indigenous melodies and rhythms. HSI is one of the ministries helping to document the singing of the persecuted church.


Collection of Texts, Tunes, Hymns, or Songs

Modern Hymnody – An analysis of newly-published works
Scot Crandal

In this session, we will explore the development and use of notable texts and tunes both recently published and also within the last few years.


Black Catholic Congregational Song
Darnell St. Romain, Darrell St. Romain & M. Roger Holland, II
Sponsored by C. Michael Hawn, FHS, in honor of SMU Doctor of Pastoral Music Graduates

Purpose: To give an introduction and overview of Black Catholic Congregational Song.

Presentation: Taking a Three-Prong Approach, we will explore Hymnody, Psalm Settings, and Mass Settings by Black Catholic Composers. In addition, we will give a history of the genre, beginning with the origins of Fr. Clarence J. Rivers.

The presentation will use the articles written in the past two years by Darnell and Darrell St. Romain for The Hymn and even a current Black Catholic Composer, M. Roger Holland II. We will sing examples from each of the three areas discussed.


Love Astounding: Hymns of Jeannette M. Lindholm
Jeannette (Jan) Lindholm
Sponsored by Augsburg Fortress

For this sectional, I propose to feature and discuss selected hymns from my first collection of hymns, Love Astounding: Hymns of Jeannette M. Lindholm, published this past August with Augsburg Fortress. Drawing, in part, from scholarship in feminist rhetorical theory (including Foss and Griffin’s groundbreaking work on invitational rhetoric), I will focus my remarks on the kinds of poetic devices and rhetorical strategies I use deliberately to (1) create more open kinds of “spaces” in my hymns that invite individuals to bring their own responses to the hymns AND (2) offer possibilities for individuals to connect more deeply with the texts, traditions, beliefs, and hopes of their worshiping communities. Topics will include:

• the multivalent nature of language and the function(s) of allusion in the hymns
• how less can be more in a spare use of language
• the use and function(s) of questions in particular hymns
• the importance of establishing—and maintaining—critical connections between sound and sense in hymns (recalling Alexander Pope’s famous admonition, “the sound must seem an echo to the sense”)

During the sectional we will sing selected hymns.


Digital Worship Resources for the Second Century of United Church of Canada
Lloyd MacLean, Bruce Harding & Catherine MacLean

In celebration of our centenary in 2025, the United Church of Canada is proud to digitize all our worship resources (Voices United, More Voices, Nos voix unies, and our latest supplement Then Let Us Sing!) making them available on line, completely cross-referenced in one place. Special work has been completed that highlights music and lyrics from other cultures and American Sign Language.


Contemporary Hymns from South Korea
Chan Gyu Jang
This Sectional will be streamed live for Digital Conference participants.

In this in-person sectional, we will hear and sing some of the most well-known and treasured hymns in Korean-speaking congregations, now beautifully translated into English by several members of the Hymn Society in the recent years. Worship leaders will gain strategies for introducing these bilingual hymns to their own congregations. Hymn writers will get first dibs on the hymns that have yet to be translated.


New Songs by Benjamin Brody, David Bjorlin, and Hannah Brown (1st Session)
Benjamin Brody, David Bjorlin & Hannah Brown
Sponsored by Jacque Jones, FHS, in memory of Alice Parker, FHS, and Rae Whitney

Composer Ben Brody joins text writers David Bjorlin and Hannah Brown to introduce their new and forthcoming collections. Brody’s tunes, blending contemporary sounds with traditional forms, have appeared in a number of recent hymnals. Bjorlin has emerged as a prophetic voice, with selections from his first published collection already becoming standards for many congregations. Brown, a new voice in hymnody, brings new pastoral perspectives and fresh forms that will be welcome additions to the repertoire. The three presenters will share and discuss their collaborations with one another, as well as with other writers and composers.
The presentation will be spread across two sectional sessions; come to one or both.


New Songs by Benjamin Brody, David Bjorlin, and Hannah Brown (2nd Session)
Benjamin Brody, David Bjorlin & Hannah Brown
Sponsored by Jacque Jones, FHS, in memory of Alice Parker, FHS, and Rae Whitney

Composer Ben Brody joins text writers David Bjorlin and Hannah Brown to introduce their new and forthcoming collections. Brody’s tunes, blending contemporary sounds with traditional forms, have appeared in a number of recent hymnals. Bjorlin has emerged as a prophetic voice, with selections from his first published collection already becoming standards for many congregations. Brown, a new voice in hymnody, brings new pastoral perspectives and fresh forms that will be welcome additions to the repertoire. The three presenters will share and discuss their collaborations with one another, as well as with other writers and composers.
The presentation will be spread across two sectional sessions; come to one or both.


“Always in Our Boat” and “Till Love Achieves What Hope Demands”
Jane Best and Patrick Michaels

“Always in Our Boat” by Jane Best is a new collection of hymns and songs, in which Jane shares her own texts and music written in the past decade, together with her musical setting of texts by others, for congregations to enjoy using in worship.

“Till Love Achieves What Hope Demands” by Patrick Michaels is his latest collection of hymns featuring his own newest and older texts—addressing a great variety of current theological and topical themes with new musical settings.”


“God Brings Joy” by James Hart Brumm; “Hold God’s Lifeline” by Iteke Prins
James Hart Brumm and Iteke Prins
Sponsored by Virginia and Mark Meyer

In “God Brings Joy” James Brumm presents new hymn texts written in the past ten years, designed to help congregations find and sing their song in new ways.

In “Hold God’s Lifeline” Iteke Prins creates musical settings of texts written by Edith Sinclair Downing most of which are about Biblical and Historical women.


Resounding Voices
Tonya Taylor-Dorsey
Sponsored by Lucy Goman in Memory of Rae Whitney

Resounding Voices is an exciting, new collection of 73 sacred hymns, psalms, and songs by women. It is ecumenical and interfaith, following the example of Voices Found, published 20 years ago. This new supplement is published by The Hymn Society in partnership with the Women’s Sacred Music Project as an online resource. The sectional will present highlights of the collection.


Without Limits: Old Tunes, New Lyrics
Kenneth Medema

In this session, Ken will help participants write new lyrics to familiar hymn tunes which tell stories about the life of their very own church. These lyrics could describe events in the history of the church, could celebrate particular people whose lives are remembered in church culture, and/or could be used to initiate a new chapter in church life. We will actually take situations that participants bring up and in the group create these new texts as well as discussing ways to bring a hymn-writing group together.


All Shall Be Well
Lim Swee Hong, FHS
Sponsored by Jacque Jones, FHS, in memory of Alice Parker, FHS, and Rae Whitney

This sectional will feature the second collection of tune settings by Lim Swee Hong in various musical styles as published by Hope Publishing Company. Hymn writers that are featured include Carl Daw, Dan Damon, Shirley Erena Murray, and others.


Panel, Colloquium, Conversational

Teenagers, Global Song, and Liturgical Difference: A Panel Conversation
Emily Andrews & Nelson Cowan

“Of course the young people prefer contemporary worship music…” In our recent work with teens and emerging adults, we have found that this statement is widely assumed, even sanctioned, often in contexts in which it remains unquestioned. And yet, while contemporary worship musical expressions are proliferating, Christian congregations continue to decline in numbers (Pew, Barna, et al.).

Our proposed panel discussion will guide a conversation in three parts: First, we will invite panelists to reflect on why this assumption has been so widely internalized among pastors, worship pleaders, youth leaders, and laity (young and old), even as some find it historically and theologically misguided. Second, we will present research findings from our recent qualitative study of teenagers’ experience of and reflections on liturgical difference, particularly in their practice of global song in public worship. While our study was limited in scope, we believe it presents strong indicators that young people have a far deeper appreciation for liturgical difference and diversity in corporate song than we give them credit for. Songs from non-Western sources, especially those sung in their original languages, were noted as particularly formative. Our panel will unpack why this may have been the case. Finally, we will attend to this phenomenon in practice. Based on our study, there appear to be particular conditions that may contribute to an environment in which young people will hospitably celebrate diversity in congregational singing.

Included on this panel are the co-investigators of the study alongside two worship leaders who have noted experience leading young people in a wide range of congregational songs. As a conversation that seeks to widen the liturgical imagination of those leading the Church’s young people in song, this panel is well-suited for the conference theme, “Without Limits: Singing the Congregation’s Song.” We plan for all four panelists to present at the conference in person.


Singing as Truth-Telling: New Songs to Sing us Beyond the Doctrine of Discovery
Conie Borchardt and Doe Hoyer
Sponsored by The Sisters of St Joseph of London, ON

The Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery and Music that Makes Community are partnering together to create a playlist of songs for congregations and communities to sing and embody the work of repair and solidarity with Indigenous communities. Learn where the project started, what its end goals are, where we are in the process, and most importantly, SING!

The Coalition to Dismantle the Doctrine of Discovery promotes an organizing model that recognizes the
interrelatedness of cultural and structural change, towards growing the movement for Indigenous justice. By commissioning and curating a playlist of new community singing songs intended to center the voices of Native activists and artists, we aim to support cultural change within people of the dominant settler culture. Our playlist is a cultural change resource, to speak the truth about our shared history and integrate the values and vision of decolonization. The Coalition invites congregations and singing communities to participate in singing these new messages for cultural change with our own voices and bodies. Singing in this community-building way is intended to help strengthen our shared commitments to engage the work of repair and structural change organizing with joy, connection, and renewed purpose.

Music that Makes Community (MMC) practices communal song-sharing that inspires deep spiritual connection, brave shared leadership, and sparks the possibility of transformation in our world. We offer resources, training, and encouragement in the dynamic power of singing to connect others and ourselves. Rooted in both Christian contemplative and activist traditions, MMC envisions a liberative culture that empowers individuals and communities to claim and use the power of singing to heal our spirits, nurture our common lives, and work for justice. We aspire to create spaces that are laboratories of learning, discovery, and communal joy.


Digital and Embodied: Congregational Song and Worship Arts in Virtual Space
Lisa Hancock and Diana Sanchez-Bushong
Sponsored by C. Michael Hawn, FHS, in honor of SMU Doctor of Pastoral Music Graduates

In March 2020, churches of all denominations, traditions, and contexts moved worship online in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. Now, four years later, it is safe to say that online worship is here to stay. This sectional offers an opportunity to reflect theologically and practically on the act of singing and making art in the seemingly limitless virtual space. After engaging in reflection around the embodied reality of online worship, we explore skills and tools for online music making and artistic expression, including digital hymnals, techniques for online song leading, and considerations for creating ritual in online and hybrid contexts.”


“Sam Sings On: A Legacy for the Church”
Barbara Day Miller
Sponsored by Michael Silhavy

“Sam Sings On” will be a conversational look at Carlton R. Young’s broad influence on the church’s song from mid-20th century (his first published anthem is still in print!) to compositions and publications (“Today I Live”) in the last years of his life, drawing from his memoirs “I’ll Sing On: My First 96 Years”. and incorporating his hymn tunes and psalm settings.


Historical and/or Scholarly Presentation

Research in the Era of, Open Access, and AI
Tina Schneider

Research in hymnology requires access to and an understanding of a variety of tools; some are accessible only through a subscription or license, and other are open for public use. This session will focus on tools without or with few limits, including HathiTrust (historical issues of The Hymn and more) and open access journals, theses, and dissertations. Of particular interest will be the history and different facets of We will also explore the limits and potential of ChatGPT, and the questions it raises about the research process.


Mapping the Conversation on Music and Theology Beyond the Church
Adam A. Perez and Hilary Seraph Donaldson

This sectional examines how the intersection of music and theology is encountered, considered, and understood in contexts outside of the church, and how these environments create, are shaped by, and animate community. Music is a powerful means of gathering people around core theological ideas, and of articulating, conveying, and circulating theology within and beyond a Christian community in a given context. These communities of practice include parachurch organizations, musical and theological societies, seminaries and divinity schools (and the centers and institutes associated with them), ecumenical intentional prayer communities, and musical and liturgical conferences—like The Hymn Society. These disparate communities have in common the development of a distinctive musical identity that has emerged from the community’s core theology, or has served as a catalyst for the formation of the community, or a combination of the two.

In this sectional, we explore how the interplay of music and theology animates these specific communities, and how an unfolding musical-theological conversation impacts the culture beyond those communities. We examine three broad categories of organization for which the convergence of music and theology is formational: ecumenical communities of practice (including The Hymn Society in the U.S. and Canada), worship communities, and academic communities. The intersection of music and theology informs and shapes each community in distinctive ways. In some instances, theological reflection emerges from the work of musical practice. In others, musical practices have emerged from theological positions. In some contexts, the relationship is either reciprocal or concerns seem to have emerged simultaneously, resulting in a messier relationship. And finally, sites where conversations on theology and music have limited, indirect, or no clear connection to actual practices.


What Limits Do We Place on Global Song?
Katie Graber, Marcell Silva Steuernagel, Maria Monteiro & Lim Swee Hong, FHS
This Sectional will be streamed live for Digital Conference participants.
Sponsored by Hilary Seraph Donaldson, Andrew Donaldson, FHS, and Wendy Donaldson

A recent study of the contents of the Voices Together hymnal found that among songs originating outside Europe and North America (or written in connection to those styles), about 57% of tunes were unattributed while named composers were about 37% male and 6% female (Graber and Loepp Thiessen 2023). This reliance on songs from contexts where songs are considered communal creative products or from a “collection” process in which the name of the composer was not preserved reflects decades-long biases in how Western congregational song curators have engaged with sources outside the Euro-American axis. These types of songs tend to be older and more recognizably different from Western hymnody. A cursory glance at other sources suggests Voices Together’s statistics are similar to many other congregational song collections in North America. We ask: what does this say about North American Christians’ conception of global Christian music? Are we putting conceptual limits on songs of “the other,” and how can we better sing without these limits?
This sectional will introduce a forthcoming hymnal companion-type resource from GIA that focuses on global hymnody. Scholars working on the project will present information about the roughly 200 songs discussed in the volume, along with accompanying essays on histories of Christian song in various geographical areas and issues such as appropriation, copyright, decolonization, and hybridity. We will sing examples of global song of many varieties (old and new, as well as “traditional” and styles that cross boundaries) and discuss their contexts and their relationship to issues named above.


Singing Vernacular Southern Hymnody through Sounding Spirit
Jesse P. Karlsbeg, Rylan André Harris, Sara Snyder Hopkins & Garrett Scholberg

This sectional explores what hymnody from historical sources can mean in the present day and brings hymn singing repertoires with diverse racial, geographic, and stylistic associations into conversation with each other. Pairing participatory singing from three forthcoming scholarly editions of hymnbooks in the Sounding Spirit series with contextualizing commentary, the session demonstrates the wide-ranging purposes to which contemporary singers can put historical hymnody. Members of contemporary hymn singing communities for whom these historical sources continue to make meaning will join in song with Hymn Society attendees.

Stephen Foreman and Samuel Worcester’s Cherokee Singing Book (1846) set Cherokee-language hymns to choral settings by Lowell Mason and others. The hymnal was unsuccessful because it imposed this repertoire in place of other tune-text pairings in oral circulation among Cherokee hymn singers. Today, the songbook is facilitating language learning in Western North Carolina through the new Cherokee Language Repertory Choir, whose members will join co-directors Sara Snyder Hopkins (volume editor of the edition) and Garrett Scholberg in singing songs from the collection. Soul Echoes No. 2 (1909) is an early collection of Black gospel hymnody that introduced popular hymn texts by minister Charles Albert Tindley. Rylan André Harris, a music minister and associate editor of the Soul Echoes edition, will lead singing from the work as a means of reengaging with Tindley’s hymnody by recounting its socioeconomic and historical context, and exploring its possibilities for congregations today. Joseph Stephen James’s Sacred Tunes and Hymns (1913) sought to bridge the gap between Sacred Harp and congregational hymn singing. The paired four-shape notation with keyboard accompaniment and dispersed harmony with the Sunday school repertoire. Joined by Atlanta-area shape-note singers, volume editor Jesse P. Karlsbeg will explore the possibilities in this songbook’s provocative challenge to conventions of Sacred Harp singing around repertoire and accompaniment.

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