Annual Conference – Sectionals

Below are the breakout sessions, which we call “sectionals,” for our 2020 Annual Conference. These sessions are offered by a variety of presenters on a variety of topics.

Click Here To Go Back to Main Conference Page

Jump to a topic/track:

Track – Children and Youth

Track – Contemporary Worship Music

Track – History and Research

Track – New Collection Showcases

Track – Role of the Church Musician

Track – Skill-Building and Composing



Track – Children and Youth

Children & Hymns:  Helping them Understand and Love Hymnody

Karol Kimmell  

Help your children feel more in touch with your congregation’s hymnody. Why do adults keep singing these group songs? They want to know what makes a hymn appreciated and beloved. Learn ways to find a hymn’s uniqueness, whether through repetition of text, rhythm, or melody, by seeing the overall plan of the hymn, by exploring the countries and cultures from which they come and by finding hymns from well-known classical composers or from classical music. We will walk through specific examples of each, including, but going way beyond, noting the name of the author, composer and tune title. An extensive list of hymns will be shared as well as a list of what is interesting in each. Empower yourself to become your children’s shepherd-in-hymnody!


From Worshiper, to Worship Leader, to Worship Creator: Empowering Youth to Create Meaningful Worship

Gabriel Edwards  

Some of the most effective song leaders and liturgy creators are not necessarily our pastors or most tenured lay leaders. The spiritual lives of youth are dynamic, vibrant, and inspirational for all members, and it’s important for churches to empower youth to create and lead worship experiences to share with their faith communities. In this workshop, we hear from Gabriel Edwards about his youth worship planning ministry at Creekwood Christian Church in Flower Mound, Texas, where each week a group of 10-15 youth gather to craft a monthly worship service. This ministry has brought about creative and unique worship, spiritual growth, three original worship songs, and hours of laughter and fellowship.

We will talk about how relational youth ministry encourages youth worship participation, hear from youth who have played pivotal roles in the worship life of their congregation, and walk through processes and strategies for empowering youth in your own congregation. The end goal of this workshop is to develop a strategy to encourage youth in local congregations to move beyond simply being “the singing” or even the “the singer” to become the crafter of “the song.”


Why Children Sing

Jacob Weber  

Looking at Concordia Publishing House’s new children’s hymnal, the editor discusses the rationale behind the selections of the content. This sectional explores traditional hymnody, world hymnody, spirituals, songs in canon, and contemporary Christian songs and how these can serve as a pedagogical approach to singing. 


Track – Contemporary Worship Music

Known and New Hymns Favored by Contemporary Ensembles

Robert Feduccia, Sarah Hart

Sarah Hart and Robert Feduccia will explore contemporary hymnody originating from the trend of combining a hymn-like melodic and textual approach with accompaniment and arrangement techniques often used by contemporary ensembles. Topics will include the use of guitar, harmonic rhythm considerations, impact on congregational singing, and singing traditional tunes in new ways. A packet of music will be available to participants, providing examples for reference, study, and consideration.


Hillsong in Taiwan: The Musuhapa Movement and the Song of the Siraya People

Chia-An (Victor) Tung  

For many church congregations in Asia, localized worship expressions including singing have been problematic due to syncretistic concerns. However, for a popular group in Taiwan, a breakthrough seems to have been made. This narrative-participative session examines the congregational song practice of the Siraya people of Taiwan, and how it seeks to balance its cultural identity with existing western-based congregational song tradition. In particular, this expression, or use of song practice, is an effective way to advocate and pressure the government for official recognition of the Siraya within the Musuhapa Movement.


Boys’ Club: Examining Contemporary Worship Music’s Songwriters

Anneli Loepp Thiessen

The last time a solo woman held the top spot on the CCLI top 25 was in April 1994, with only one other man-woman duo ranking number one since then. As the genre of contemporary worship music has developed, women have struggled to hold not only the number one spot, but any spot on the top 25 list. An in-depth, data-driven study of the CCLI top 25 lists since 1989 shows that women are vastly underrepresented, while collaborations between men dominate the charts. Despite writing powerful, accessible music, industry standards and methods of exposure limit the way that music by women is accessed. What has led to this significant discrepancy in representation on the top 25 lists for the past 30 years? This workshop will provide an overview of the problem of gender representation in contemporary worship music, and will suggest ways that the music of women can be empowered to be part of the church’s song.


Track – History and Research

Paul Manz at 100: A Life Dedicated to Leading God’s People in Song

Scott M. Hyslop  

May 19, 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of composer Paul Manz. This lecture recital will take the participants through a cross section of Paul Manz’s organ improvisations, discussing the architecture of these works along with Manz’s compositional process and ethos. The works being discussed will then be demonstrated in practice – leading the workshop participants in a mini hymn festival using the improvisations with the hymns they were conceived to introduce.


Sounding Spirit: Tunebooks and Sacred Songs from the U.S. South 

Jesse P. Karlsberg

Sounding Spirit is a collaborative research lab and publishing project that demonstrates the importance of sacred texts to the singers and communities who shape American music history and experience. Through congregational singing and short presentations, this workshop will highlight the impact and legacy of five significant tunebooks in the Sounding Spirit series: The Cherokee Singing Book (1846); The Story of the Jubilee Singers with their Songs (1875); Class, Choir, and Congregation (1888); Soul Echoes, No. 2 (1909); and Original Sacred Harp (1911). These volumes represent periods, places, and genres that illustrate the importance of vernacular songbooks to American sacred music. These tunebooks also document dynamic encounters among white, black, and native communities whose singing and worship are often represented as discrete. In addition to leading selections from each tunebook, Sounding Spirit editor-in-chief Jesse P. Karlsberg will co-present with the project’s volume editors on the significance of gospel, spirituals, and shape-note songbooks to both the history and practice of sacred song. Participating volume editors include leading scholars and worship directors Meredith Doster (Emory University), Sandra Graham (Babson College), Emmett Price III (Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary), and Sara Snyder (Western Carolina University).


Why Presbyterians (Finally) Sing Christmas Carols

Mel Wilhoit 

Although current Presbyterian hymnals abound with carols of Christmas season, Presbyterians have a colorful history of opposing the season’s celebration. This presentation traces how Presbyterian (and other Reformed traditions) morphed from opposing recognition/celebration of Christmas to a wholesale embrace of its traditions–especially its seasonal songs.


Chai Hoon Park, Father of Korean Church Music

Hyun Hee (Deborah) Park  

This session provides an introduction to Chai Hoon Park, the first Korean hymnodist whose music-making and life influenced and shaped the development of Korean church music. We will explore his journey from more Western styles to more traditional Korean musical forms.

Park’s music-making has always tried to relate to the Church and its worship expressions. His advocacy comes from a deeply held conviction that the singing congregation is the primary user of his music. Thus, he believes that Korean congregational song should be a reflection of its own congregational life – connecting with God in the worshipers’ socio-cultural context.


Introducing Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns

Joseph Herl, Peter Reske

Lutheran Service Book: Companion to the Hymns, published at the end of 2019, is the first hymnal companion in English for which the earliest sources of every hymn were consulted. Its authors examined 2,813 texts, translations, tunes, and settings from 1,527 unique primary sources collected from 308 libraries and from digital repositories on the internet. Based on this information, 564 attributions given in the printed hymnal would be changed, an average of nearly one changed attribution per hymn.

This sectional describes the changed attributions and presents interesting and significant findings from the research.

Track – New Collection Showcase

New Collection by Dan Damon

Dan Damon, FHS  

Little Seeds: A new Hope Publishing collection by Dan Damon, FHS.


Songs for Racial and Gender Equity and Justice

Jann Aldredge-Clanton, Larry E. Schultz

We sing songs in worship to transform our world. Our congregational songs have power to shape our beliefs and actions because the music embeds words in our hearts. Our songs can instill racial and gender equity and justice in people from the earliest of ages. In this sectional, text writer Jann Aldredge-Clanton and composer Larry E. Schultz will draw from their collaboration on their latest hymn collection, Inclusive Songs for Resistance and Social Action, as well as from their three other hymn collections: Earth Transformed with Music! Inclusive Songs for Worship; Inclusive Hymns for Liberation, Peace, and Justice; and Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians. They will also draw from Imagine God! A Children’s Musical Exploring and Expressing Images of God, and from their song and activity book for preschool children. Larry and Jann will lead participants in songs intended to instill in children and adults an expansive theology of God that forms the foundation for an ethic of equality and justice in human relationships. Participants will sing songs that support the intersection of gender and racial justice with other justice movements. The songs name Deity as female and male and more to affirm the foundational biblical truth that all people of all races are created equally in the divine image (Genesis 1:27). With gender-balanced divine names and positive images of darkness, these songs help churches and individuals in our journey toward freedom from racism, sexism, and other intersecting injustices. Included will be songs appropriate for multifaith, multicultural, and multigenerational worship services and other gatherings.


Soul Becomes A Song: New and Selected Hymns

Richard Leach

A showcase of Selah’s newest collection of hymns by Richard Leach, with tunes by various composers.


Beauty’s Blaze: 20 Tunes by Randall Sensmeier

Randy Sensmeier and Adam Tice  

Compiled in honor of Randy’s 30 years at GIA Publications, this collection brings together his finest tunes composed since the publication of his last compendium in 2001. Writers like Ruth Duck, David Bjorlin, Delores Dufner, OSB, Mary Louise Bringle, Adam Tice, and Jacque Jones are included.


Protest of Praise: 50 New Hymn Texts by David Bjorlin

David Bjorlin  

A showcase of David Bjorlin’s first single-author text collection published by GIA Publications. Bjorlin is emerging as an important prophetic voice in congregational song. His texts are paired with traditional tunes as well as newly-composed pieces by Benjamin Brody, Sally Ann Morris, Swee Hong Lim, and others.


Today I Live: Hymns and Songs of Remembrance and Hope

Carlton Young, FHS and Michael Silhavy

Composed and compiled by Carlton ”Sam” Young, this collection includes songs and hymns on the mystery and certainty of human mortality, living life fully in the anticipation of death, the promise of the afterlife, and the eschaton. About half of the items in this collection appear for the first time and significantly add to the repertoire of choirs, parish funeral choirs, soloists and assemblies. Published by GIA Publications.


Hymn-based Instrumental Resources from World Library Publications

Thomas Strickland, Alan Hommerding

New resources for instrumentalists at worship that incorporate hymn tunes in a variety of ways.


Singing the Faith: A Short Introduction to Christian Hymnody

Mark Lawson  

Carl Schalk’s new book, Singing the Faith, is a succinct survey of Christian hymnody that provides a basic overview to the reader without being so detailed as to be daunting. The author’s extensive knowledge on the topic is his gift, offered to those who possess either a professional or personal curiosity on the subject but lack the opportunity for formal study. [Presented by Mark Lawson or Kelly Dobbs Mickus.]


“Finding God’s Song”, Texts by John Core, Tunes by Iteke Prins and James Clemens

Iteke Prins, James Clemens

New tune settings by Iteke Prins and James Clemens of hymn texts by John Core, published by Wayne Leupold Editions.


Track – Role of the Church Musician

Songs of Scripture and Song of the Church: What Does One Say to the Other?

Charles Freeman  

Even beyond the corpus of the Psalms there are a number of songs or hymns recorded in scripture, appearing in various contexts and presented in differing ways. What do these songs have to say about our practice of song in the church today? How do the songs of scripture inform and provoke our singing in the many and varied contexts of the church in this time?

From the famous “Christ hymn” of Philippians 2 to the lengthy and somewhat shocking Farewell Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32, from dedication songs by the choir in 1 and 2 Chronicles to singers and trumpets in Revelation, song is found in Scripture in settings both outside of worship and in liturgical use. These songs vary from praise and celebration to teaching and admonishing (to borrow the formula from Colossians 3). We will consider this array of songs not only for their suitability (or lack thereof) for modern use, but also for how they teach us about the many ways song works upon singers both within and outside of worship.

This sectional will include singing of both older songs and newer ones.


Companions on the Journey:  An Organist’s Journey from Console to Congregation

Jan Kraybill  

Most organists’ training rarely includes skills in song leadership/enlivening beyond the organ console. In today’s richly varied congregational song environment, all church musicians are called to constantly expand their horizons. My journey from a role primarily as an organist to one also comfortable leading singing apart from my instrument has required learning new skills, repertoire, and confidence. I am grateful to The Hymn Society for opportunities to learn from master song enliveners in action; their example and my experience has led to much richer relationships with the congregations I serve. This sectional will include skill-sharing, confidence-building, and practical examples, in hopes of inspiring your journey to ever-expanding roles in the Song, the Singer, the Singing.


Community Singing and Tragedy: The Role of the Music Leader in the Aftermath of Violence

Hilary Donaldson, Andrew Butler  

In the face of grief, music can express things that words alone can’t, and provide a space for a community’s fear, anger, and lament. This session will explore the role of congregational and community singing following a public tragedy or trauma. Sectional leaders Hilary Donaldson and Andrew Butler have both prepared major public vigil events in the aftermath of mass shootings in their communities. The session will include strategies for the church music leader in responding to tragedy, ideas for selecting and using music for a vigil or public ceremony, and a time for discussion. Through our shared experiences, we hope that more music leaders will be empowered to help their respective communities find their voice should the unspeakable occur. Trigger warning: Discussion of gun violence and death.


Track – Skill-Building and Composing

A Cappella Singing for the Average Congregation

CJ Redden-Liotta  

Even if your congregation is not filled with accomplished singers, a cappella singing can happen in your worship services! Using the guides for A Cappella Sunday provided by the Center for Congregational Singing as a starting point, we will discuss best practices for making even the most timid congregation successful at singing without instrumental support.


Making Sacred Space Through Song

Martha Burford, Paul Vasile

Explore the work of Music That Makes Community, an ecumenical non-profit organization that models practices of oral tradition teaching and learning, and invites communities to collaborate and connect through singing. We’ll share examples of the ways paperless singing has helped the diverse communities we serve create sacred space – in sanctuaries, walking labyrinths, around tables, on the streets, in fellowship gatherings, and many other places!


Singing Love in a Culture of Hate

Dollie Howell Pankey, C. Michael Hawn, FHS

Christian worship often centers appropriately on singing praise to God, yet, the biblical witness also attests to songs of pain and protest. Given the escalating prevalence of violence and manifestations of hate in society, the witness of the church must move beyond songs of praise to God in the safety of sanctuaries and extend to songs of protest and solidarity in the streets. The twin commandments found in the synoptic gospels – “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:36-40; Mark 12:30-30; Luke 10:27) – impel us to consider how we might balance our sung witness between our love of God and love of neighbor. What do the Peace Poets have to teach us? This session will offer both songs and strategies for singing a witness of love both in the safety of our sanctuaries and in the vulnerability of the streets.


How Great Thou Art

Eric Nelson  

Eric Nelson is known for his deeply spiritual settings of familiar hymns. His arrangements are used extensively in worship and in concerts. Using examples from his own creative output, Eric will share insights into breathing new life into very familiar hymns.


Keyboard Improvisation for Hymn Leaders

Wayne Wold  

This workshop will provide the basics of the whys and hows in creating improvisations on organ that will help introduce, lead, and enhance congregational singing.


Text Writers Colloquium

Wayne Wold  

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


Tune Writers Colloquium

John Horman  

This hands-on session will explore several important topics to consider in creating tunes for singing, including:

  • Crafting tunes to match the complexity of a text
  • Carrying the text without getting in the way of its meaning
  • Tailoring a tune to the structure of a well-designed text– accenting the focus (impact) words in each stanza
  • Choosing good texts to set- where do you look?
  • Finding that “sweet middle” ground between too simple and unmemorable
  • Where we are in terms of inclusivity in today’s world.


Song Writers Colloquium

Sarah Hart

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.


Click Here To Go Back to Main Conference Page