Annual Conference – Sectionals

Below are the breakout sessions, which we call “sectionals,” for our 2021 Annual Conference. These sessions are offered by a variety of presenters on a variety of topics.

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Jump to a topic/track:

Track – Historical and/or Scholarly Presentations

Track – Collections of Texts, Tunes, Hymns, or Songs

Track – Practical and/or Skill-Building Workshops

Track – Panels, Colloquia, Conversational Sessions

Track – Other



Track – Historical and/or Scholarly Presentations

Friendship in the Liturgical Imagination of the Church
Bruce Benedict & Jennifer Ryden

In various circles of the church the theme of friendship has grown theological roots in recent years as work has been done exploring the glories of friendship in disability studies (see Ben Conner’s amazing work at WTS), but little has been done to reflect on the theological riches of friendship to inform our liturgical and musical decisions. In this workshop we will explore Charles Wesley’s “Hymns for Christian Friends” and other liturgical resources that draw on the liturgical riches of friendship, especially as they relate to “singing” and “praying” welcome in our local worshipping bodies.


TUTSIAJUK: – Celebrating Inuit and Moravian Song from the Labrador Coast
David Buley

In this sectional we will visit several communities on the Labrador coast where the Inuit Moravian musical traditions continue to be learned and loved. The session will offer a glimpse into the history of how this music came to be such an important and integral part of Inuit culture and for the preservation of the Inuttitut language in Coastal Labrador. We will sing and hear pieces of this music – some of which was brought to the area by 18th Century Moravian Missionaries – how the Inuit welcomed and embraced this music and made it their own, as well as some of the hymns created by the Moravian Inuit themselves. Join us and perhaps, at the end, we will be able to say, ‘Nakummek’ for the Inuit musicians who have been and continue to be the stewards of this unique beauty.


Victorian Children: Seen But Not Heard…Singing?
Alisa Clapp-Itnyre

“Singing Welcome?” may imply limited participation based on gender, race, or class status, but it most certainly could reference suppression based on age, and of children in particular. When are children welcome to sing? When is their singing uncalled for or interruptive? Certainly the Victorians felt there was a time and place when “Children should be seen and not heard.” Yet Alisa Clapp-Itnyre has published research revealing ways in which Victorians valued the hymns and songs of children. Although many of these texts are didactic, singing also allowed children to be heard in powerful ways, one of which was in the political realm, of temperance and animal-welfare (Bands of Hope and Bands of Mercy hymns and songs, respectively) which invested in children’s voices a God-given aptitude to spread corrective messages to the adult community. Focusing on hymns and songs referencing God in three different categories of Victorian children’s songs, participants may see and hear the power of children’s religious and political singing of the past as a model for the present.


Sing of Belonging: Worship, Music, and Community Mental Health Ministry
Hillary Doerries

While communities of faith are engaging in ministries of mental health more than ever before, the church’s history with mental illness remains complicated. If the church is called to be a place of welcome for all people, how can we create a sense of belonging for people who live with mental health challenges? Communities of faith can take actionable steps to acknowledge and validate the realities of mental illness with compassion and understanding. This sectional proposes that the theological task of welcome begins in the worship service. Through the lens of liberation theology, we will examine how the musical and liturgical choices we make as faith leaders and church musicians shape our understanding of the Body of Christ in all of its wonder and diversity. These choices not only create a place of welcome for people with mental illness, but transform the church into a place where all people can access the freedom and empowerment to live into their authentic personhood as children of God.


Singing Welcome with Voices Together
Sarah Kathleen Johnson & Anneli Loepp Thiessen

When the Voices Together committee first assembled in 2016, no one could have imagined that the hymnal being produced would be released during a global pandemic, in the midst of urgent discussions around the Black Lives Matter movement, and shipped to congregations the week of a tumultuous US election. The congregations receiving Voices Together looked to the hymnal to speak into unprecedented situations. In the context of crisis, injustice, fear, and uncertainty, how does Voices Together facilitate singing welcome? How can a hymnal bring individuals, congregations, and communities together when there is so much pushing people apart?

This sectional will explore the ways that Voices Together attempts to welcome communities into expansive, just, and diverse worship. We will walk through various aspects of the Voices Together process and the final product, highlighting how Voices Together encourages singing welcome in Mennonite congregations in new ways.


Geoffrey Beaumont’s “Twentieth Century Folk Mass”: When Execution Doesn’t Match the Vision
Michael Silhavy

Geoffrey Beaumont’s “Twentieth Century Folk Mass” enjoyed a bit of notoriety following the publication of the work’s score and recording. In fact, Erik Routley devoted a chapter to it in his Twentieth Century Church Music. In the spirit of Singing Welcome, Beaumont sought to create a liturgical setting that drew upon musical tradition while attempting to sound contemporary. He incorporated a variety of musical styles and rhythms, and the hymn settings within foreshadow the Retuned movement. The primacy of the congregation’s song is upheld and it is enhanced with choral and instrumental expansions. Yet to hear the work for the first time in its full setting in the original recording is, well…..

This sectional seeks to introduce this iconic (?) work to participants, and a generous amount of listening is planned, admittedly, to bring a bit of levity into the conference week. But any laughter aside, we will explore how the visionary path set forth by Beaumont still has relevance for us today.


Track – Collections of Texts, Tunes, Hymns, or Songs

I Danced in the Morning
John Ambrose, FHS

A retrospective on the life and hymns/songs of the late Sydney Carter, schoolmaster, broadcaster, composer of pop-style congregational song, story-teller, and beloved iconoclast.


53 Hymn Texts by Women Writers
Barbara Bridge & Scot Crandal

Barbara Bridge takes you on a journey through a fresh offering of hymn texts by such writers as Delores Dufner, FHS, Barbara Hamm, Bernadette Farrell, Genevieve Glen, Sarah Hart, and Janine Applegate. There is no original music in this collection—traditional hymn tunes are used throughout—OCP’s hope is that these texts will be newly set by a wide range of today’s composers.

This collection covers a variety of liturgical needs and themes such as gathering, communion, closing, various seasons of the church year, social justice, discipleship, healing, peace, God’s love for us, funerals, creation, and many more.


Wonders in Your Word
James Clemens

A hymn collection of texts by John Core and new tunes by James E. Clemens and Iteke Prins. Published by The Leupold Foundation.


God, We Praise You, a Collection of Hymns from the Jubilate Group
Carl P. Daw, FHS

Hope Publishing Company has been representing the collective works of the Jubilate Group since the 1980s in the United States and Canada. This collection of over 60 hymns highlights the group’s diverse writings. It includes hymns by Christopher Idle, Michael Perry, James Seddon, Michael Baughen, Michael Seward, and Martin Lackebusch, to name a few. Presented by Past Executive Director and Hymn Society Fellow, Carl Daw, this sectional is sure to shed new light on many modern hymns from across the pond.


New Hymn Tunes by Scott Hyslop
Scott Hyslop

Details TBA


“Psallite” — Congregational Song that Invites Participation
Paul Inwood

The Psallite project, music written by the Collegeville Composers Group working collaboratively, includes a large corpus of psalms and antiphons, a Mass setting, music for Christian Initiation and for weddings and funerals. This presentation introduces the music, explores the underlying principles behind it, and shows why it has been so successful in those parishes that have tried it. The music is “essentially vocal,” but works well with the widest variety of parish resources. It has been used across the range from house churches to cathedrals.


Hymns for the Faith Journey, texts by R. Frederick Crider, Jr., tunes by Iteke Prins
Iteke Prins

A collection of new hymn tunes by Iteke Prins with hymn texts by R. Frederick Crider, Jr.


Highlighting New Voices
Paul Robinson & Brian Hehn

As a part of the work of The Center for Congregational Song, The Hymn Society has recommitted to hosting hymn writing retreats and workshops. Three “Writing the Church’s Song” retreats have been run so far as well as a collaborative song-writing retreat with the Porter’s Gate Worship Project. This sectional will highlight hymns and songs by artists who have found their voice during and/or with the help of those events.


The Hymn Tunes of Richard Wayne Dirksen
David Schaap

Publication from Selah and the Washington National Cathedral to honor the centenary of Dirksen’s birth in 2021.


Sing No Empty Alleluias
Chris Shelton

Chris Shelton’s debut collection of songs is sure to become a source for the next generation of hymnals. Within the congregation he serves–a Presbyterian Church on Broadway in NYC–Chris approaches worship as a time of holy theatre. For Chris, the hymns we sing in worship are as integral to sharing The Story as the songs are to advancing the plot in a Broadway show. They carry us from one idea to the next. The words we choose matter, as we seek to celebrate, understand, and be challenged by the Living Word among us.


Hymnody of the African American Diaspora
Hale Thompson

The section will feature hymns that are unique to the African American church. These hymns transcend all denominational barriers. Grand congregational hymns by African American composers will be featured, such as the ‘story’ hymns of Tindley (Leave It There), Dorsey (Precious Lord/When I’ve Done The Best I Can), Campbell (Let It Breathe On Me), Doroux (Give Me A Clean Heart), and Clark-Terell (I Can Do All Things Through Christ), and the revival and meditation hymns such as ‘Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior’ and ‘I Am Thine O’ Lord’.


Adam Tice

Unbound is a digital platform for searching and purchasing individual hymns and songs, intended to be used in conjunction with ONELICENSE accounts. It contains a vast library of material from GIA, WLP, and Hope Publishing collections, and regularly adds new selections from familiar artists like Mary Louise Bringle, FHS, Mark Miller, Delores Dufner, OSB, FHS, Ben Brody, Sally Ann Morris, David Bjorlin, and Jacque Jones. In addition, it provides a platform for new voices like Bex Gaunt, Chris Shelton, and Zack Stachowski. This sectional will showcase some of those new materials and will orient users to the platform.



Track – Practical and/or Skill-Building Workshops

Welcoming Spaces
Joyce Borger

Singing words that are welcoming will fall flat on people’s ears if they are not sung within a welcoming context. In this workshop we will explore ways in which our words, gestures, physical environment, and use of multi-media can hinder or extend a message of welcome.


Hymns Are Not Just for Singing Anymore
Mark Lawson

If we had not experienced this before, we learned during the pandemic that instrumental versions of congregational songs, whether familiar or new, have an important place in our repertoire. MorningStar has a wealth of music for instruments: for solos, duets, trios, ensembles, or orchestra; for strings, winds, or brass; and for bells, piano, and organ. This sectional will explore this music and ideas for its creative use in worship.


How to Use What We’ve Learned: Lessons in Remote Worship from the Pandemic
Louise Mundinger

How do we use all the recordings we’ve been making during the pandemic? What has worked? How have we reached people in new ways? Video recordings need not only be performances, wonderful as they are. What would St. Augustine say about singing a hymn on a virtual platform? Would he have something to add to “Those who sing, pray twice”? Could it be something like: “Those who make a video recording and transmit it on a virtual platform with text and tune, prays thrice”? Program apps make it fairly easy to make movies using hymns as a kind of soundtrack superimposed with pictures and text. As musicians, we have been forced to rethink the ways we sing hymns, and that is something which won’t go away after the pandemic. In this session, learn how to make movies easily and, more importantly, how to generate content to fill those movies. In short, learn to sing a virtual new song and “pray thrice.”


Jazz and Improvisation as Hospitality
Paul Robinson

Jazz can appeal to all ages and demographics. You can lead traditional hymns AND more contemporary melodies in any number of jazz styles without sacrificing theological depth or strength of singing. The tangible energy that arises from even simple improvisation can greatly enhance specific texts and tunes. To some ears, a jazz accompaniment or accompaniment that includes some elements of improvisation may serve to bring new life into an older text. Lastly, many jazz styles (especially Latin jazz) can help to build bridges with a broader global community. In this workshop we will explore ways to incorporate these strategies to bring more people closer together, especially within the context of a blended style of worship.


Practices of Psalmody: A Congregational Singing for Muslim-Christian Friendship in the 21st Century
Eric Sarwar & Emily Brink, FHS

The biblical Psalms provide us with a musical mandate and emotional and spiritual language to engage with our religious neighbors. This sectional posits that congregational singing, as practiced in the Psalms, was done in three distinct ways: “chant, meter, and responsorially” (Brink 2002). These three basic practices of Psalmody have striking parallels with Muslim religious music culture and provide a model to foster missional engagement with our Muslim friends. Collaborative and creative approaches of singing Zabor (Psalms) suggests that translating Psalms into cultural texts fosters faithful friendship among Muslims.


Radical Hospitality through Song and Sound
Marcell Silva Steuernagel

This session is based on the experience of a Brazilian scholar and song leader living in the United States and negotiating questions of identity, power, and other types of privilege in liturgy. Developing a pedagogy of hospitality means moving beyond an intention to be “nice in church.” Nursing a radical hospitality in worship requires changing not only the way we think about words and language, but also how we think about the worshiping body, the architecture of our liturgies, and the soundscapes we create to accommodate those who come from music cultures at odds with the Euro-American diet of SATB hymns, piano, and organ music.

This presentation, in dialogue with current conversations in church music scholarship, seeks to provide practical perspectives for church musicians looking not only to “diversify” their liturgies, but to commit themselves to the development of profoundly pastoral and musically inclusive experiences of worship that are, in and of themselves, opportunities to sing and perform welcomeness in church.


From East and West, From North and South: Are You Ready?
Slats Toole & Noel Werner

It’s all well and good to say, “All are welcome,” but what does that mean when it comes to practice? How do we structure our music ministry so it is poised to shift and adapt as our understanding of culture, identity, and inclusion widens? With a particular eye toward making music ministry welcoming of the LGBTQIA2S+ community, this sectional will challenge you to view the structure of your ministry in light of embracing anyone who walks through the door. We will engage in practical discussions on how to prepare music leaders and the congregation for cultural change, best practices for expansive worship, and what to do when you mess up (because we all will)! Radical hospitality is not a final goal, but an ever-renewing process. Come and receive some helpful equipment and encouragement for the journey.


Horatio Spafford Meets Kirk Franklin
Raymond Trapp

This sectional will focus on bridging hymns and contemporary Gospel music. Many churches offer traditional and contemporary services. Quite often the major difference in these services is the music/instrumentation. Unfortunately, this really just divides us more. In addition, it creates a context which limits the way in which God can connect with us. This sectional through music will seek to open the heart of the musician to explore a new area under the umbrella of Sacred music while embracing their gifts. In turn, it will do the same for the congregant by meeting them where they are and inviting them to take a musical journey to a new place. The sectional would explore websites that offer written music for contemporary pieces, and explore arranging these pieces to incorporate the hymns of the church that have stood the test of time. The sectional will explore contemporary Gospel composers and hymn writers and explore ways to bring these worlds together as opposed to having to choose one or the other and losing beautiful people and their wonderful gifts in the process.


Track – Panel, Colloquia, Conversational

Writers’ Round Table: How Do We Write Welcome?
James Brumm

Modeled after sectionals done in years gone by but not recently, this is a hymn and song writers’ discussion for those who have been published. We won’t discuss questions of mechanics, rhyme, or meter, but of theology and liturgy. Four or five writers will be invited to discuss the challenges of writing texts that welcome people awakening to the realities of a damaged climate, an angry, wounded, and broken society, and a world changed by a pandemic. How do we invite progressives in while pastorally including conservatives? What are we trying, and what works? Others, writers or not, are invited to sit in, ask questions, and join the discussion.


Carlton Young in Conversation
Matthew Phelps & Carlton R. Young, FHS

This sectional will present noted composer, author, and editor Carlton Young in a conversation with Matthew Phelps regarding his career; new publication of hymns from GIA, “Today I Live”; his current projects, notably new hymns being composed with Don Saliers; and his thoughts on the future of the church, its hymnody, and sacred music.

It will seek to be an enlightening conversation between two friends, and will allow the audience to get a glimpse into Sam’s thoughts on where we can go as a church, both in a digital age, and more traditional forms of worship. The two will discuss how worship at West End UMC, where Sam attends, attracted him to the congregation and inspired him to write for the congregation both in his new collection published through GIA and in a new commission with Don Saliers.


Text Writers Colloquium
Alan Hommerding

Participants are invited to submit their original hymn texts and tunes for sharing and receiving feedback from other participants and the workshop leader.


Tune Writers Colloquium
Sally Ann Morris

Tune writers are invited to submit a tune for written critique, followed by a live Zoom session held the week before The Hymn Society Annual Conference.


Song Writers Colloquium
Isaac Wardell

This annual sectional provides an opportunity for participants to learn some best practices for song (text and tune together) writing from a song-writer and congregational song mentor. Participants will have the opportunity to submit their own songs ahead of time for personal feedback from the sectional leader.


Track – Other

Hardcore Hymnody: A Lecture Recital
Nathan Myrick & Marcell Silva Steuernagel

The sectional will present alternative instrumentation and arrangements of classical hymnody in the style of DIY rock. Hymns will be performed, followed by performance and theological exegesis of the selections. Hymns in this vein are performed for regular, public worship across the globe, and represent an important, albeit understudied, form of musical worship.


A Holy Discomfort: The Spiritual Work of Singing Welcome
Amanda Udis-Kessler

In societies with powerful social inequality and deep political polarization, singing that is truly hospitable to the devalued other (devalued as a member of an oppressed group or as a political opponent) calls for spiritual work on our part, especially the work of wrestling with holy discomfort. This work looks different in pastoral and prophetic contexts (to use a distinction of Brian Hehn’s), and it can involve individuals and religious communities in a variety of activities before a note is ever sung, from self-education about inequality to conversations across difference and from prayers of repentance to protesting in the street. Amanda, a sacred music composer, social inequality sociologist, and community educator, will lift up some of the challenges we face and the kinds of work we might do and will share some original sacred music that confronts the holy discomfort of hospitality directly, addressing both racism and heterosexism.

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