Sunday, July 17, 2011

Seminar in Grand Rapids

I've been directing a seminar on "Congregations and Social Change" this month through a program for scholars at Calvin College.

A wonderful, interdisciplinary group has gathered this month:

Kendra Barber (University of Maryland)
Walt Bower (University of Kentucky)
Lloyd Chia (University of Missouri)
Ryon Cobb (Florida State University)
Lisa DeBoer (Westmont College)
Janine Giordano Drake (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Lincoln Mullen (Brandeis University)
Paul Olson (Briar Cliff University)
Peter Schuurman (University of Waterloo)
Christine Sheikh (University of Denver)
Phillip Sinitiere (Sam Houston State University)
Kevin Taylor (Boston University)

Together, these scholars represent a tremendous range of knowledge and skills, drawn from the humanities and social sciences, who pursue a broad scope of ambitious questions in the study of religion. Race, work, technology, "the market," identity, women's leadership, incorporation of the arts, and the question of whether "congregations" matter or not, have all been part of rich and not-easily-resolved conversations happening in both classroom and lunchroom.

We read and think a lot together, but I think we all agree we've ate a lot together, too! Food for thought has been more than adequately matched by food for our collective stomachs.

The first three weeks we explored a range of concepts and methodologies and experienced several congregations on visits as individuals and as a group.  Although we are all fascinated by the phenomena of the megachurch (a memorable visit), a stand-out visit for me was the opportunity to meet with the Imam and several lay leaders of a newly built mosque here in the city -- the most multi-ethnic, multi-cultural congregation we encountered.

My communitiesImage by steven w via Flickr
This week, participants will share from their own work, something I am really looking forward to hearing.  For me, this is the part where we get to hear ideas in development, articles being born, books being written.  The application of genius to crafting a narrative takes shape before us, further connecting us all into our collective development as scholars.

These are brilliant people, and I am learning from them. Be prepared for more work on the Black megachurch, the emerging church movement, pastor Joel Osteen, conversion narratives between Christians and Jews (both directions), parents raising atheists, second generation mosque leaders in America, congregations and the labor movement in New York, arts and worship, and more.

Special thanks to Penny Edgell (University of Minnesota), Jim Wellman (University of Washington) and Bill McKinney (recent emeritus president of Pacific School of Religion) who each spent time with us and shared their advice and expertise.  Joel Carpenter here at Calvin deserves great thanks for hospitality and his own insightful "footnotes" as well as a nice set of casual conversations with visiting scholars for other programs here in Grand Rapids.

Finally, thanks to all my colleagues in the seminar!  It's a privilege to pursue our questions in scholarship.  It's a gift to do it in community.
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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Worship across the Racial Divide: Religious Music and the Multiracial Church

Here's a draft blurb for my forthcoming book (Oxford University Press, 2012):

Worship across the Racial Divide:
Religious Music and the Multiracial Church

Oxford University Press. In press, expected 2012.

"This book will surprise many readers." -- From the Introduction

Church leaders believe worship is key to congregational diversity, and the demand for music that appeals across racial and ethnic cultures has prompted great speculation.

But misguided worship practices based on faulty racial assumptions accentuate rather than relieve the pervasive racial tensions.

Through stories and vignettes from a wide variety of Protestant multiracial churches and interviews with over 170 of their members – including church leaders, church musicians, and regular attendees – Marti's book moves away from assumption and speculation to examine how music and worship actually ‘works’ in diverse congregations.

The book provides an intriguing lens for how race continues to affect religion, even when religion attempts to overcome it.