Sunday, May 26, 2013

Let the Fieldwork Begin!

With the end of the school year, I am excited to have a semester of study leave from Ashland University. This is being supplemented by a writing grant from the Virginia Seminar in Lived Theology. All of this means that for the next year I will be hunkering down to research and write a book on congregational singing, church and reconciling communities.

Isaac Wardell of Bifrost Arts.
This week I have been in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Isaac Wardell, the founder of Bifrost Arts, was kind enough to let me interview him and ask him all kinds of questions about his passion for encouraging congregations to sing. There is a great article about Wardel's work called "Bifrost: Enriching the Church and Engaging the World. . . Through Singing." You can see from the title why I am interested learning more from him. He has written a set of Sunday School materials on corporate worship -- I recommend you download a free copy of his Liturgy, Music and Space

This morning my family attended Trinity Presbyterian Church and heard the fruit of  the congregation's labors. In the resonant modern sanctuary the worship team led the large congregation with its volume set at the acoustic level of the 9ft Baldwin grand piano.

At the service I participated in this morning at Trinity, the connection between the sacramental life of the body and congregation's singing was very strong. We welcomed the newly baptized into the Church with  a cappella singing (Amazing Grace) and as we moved forward to share in the sacrement of the Lord's Supper  the band dropped away again as we sang "I Love You Lord."

In the article about Bifrost I already mentioned, the minister of Trinity Pres, Greg Thompson, reflects on Isaac Wardell's influence and hints at the sacramental character and function of singing. Thompson explains that Wardell is moving the congregation "toward greater congregational engagement, which is to say, lots of people really, really singing. I have been amazed as I have seen everyone from children to Chinese students to Boomer conservatives gathered around not just the same table but around the same songs—and singing.”

Let the fieldwork begin--I will be traveling to Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi over the next few months as well as to churches closer to home in Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana. I'll keep y'all posted.


  1. Nice post, Pete. Can't wait to hear more about the book in progress.

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  3. A research blog - cool! It was great to see you (and talk) at SILT this week!

    1. I am just following the good editor's advice!

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