• Songs of Solidarity: A New Approach to Liturgical Music and Community Cohesion

      Johnson, Matthew E.; Institute for Christian Studies (2014-03-06)
      In this paper, I will focus on a single type of music used in a religious setting, namely congregational song, which I will broadly refer to as “liturgical music.” Though liturgical music in the context of Christian community serves a variety of functions for community participants, this paper will focus on two major functions liturgical music plays in the way it facilitates community coherence: (1) it connects participants via embodied empathetic imagination to a particular defining narrative or mythology, and (2) it connects participants via co-performance directly to one another. I will suggest that liturgical art in religious community is actually a constitutive force in that community, having the capability of illuminating and affirming the communal identity shared by the participants. Participation in liturgical music is a way of actively shaping the community as a community, re-telling together a deeply held defining mythology in the context of the present world and creating a shared moment of co-performance in which participants enter into true face-to-face relationships with one another. Finally, I will illustrate how these functions may play out in a religious community through an analysis of Psalm 136’s content and use in ancient Israelite liturgy.