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My “Oxford Paper” on Congregational Music

Next week, with fear and trepidation, I will be presenting a paper at an academic conference on congregational music at Ripon College, one of the Anglican (ministry training) colleges of Oxford University. I confess: I’m more than excited about it, honored to have this opportuniy…and scared out of my wits! I feel a little like Bilbo Baggins, wandering out into places that are far beyond my knowledge and experience!

Just to clarify, I’m not going as part of my doctoral studies, which are actually at Durham University and begin this September (long-distance, part-time).

This is an academic conference on congregational music that has been convened once before (2011), and was exclusively (I think) for academics. This year, however, they wanted to involve some practitioners, and by a strange series of events (one of the conference organizers sat in a workshop I taught at Mission:Worship last November in Eastbourne), I was invited to submit a proposal to present a paper at this year’s conference. After sweating over 150 words, I sent in my proposal abstract and waited a few months til the decision about which papers were chosen was announced. When I received word that my paper had been accepted, I freaked out.

Then began the work of researching and writing.



The sub-theme I chose (of the list of possible choices they assigned) is the following:

A Futurology of Congregational Music Papers on this subtheme will offer creative, considered reflection on the future of congregational music. What new emerging shapes and forms will—or should—congregational worship music take? Will congregational song traditions become more localized, or will they be further determined by global commercial industries? What must scholars do to provide more nuanced, relevant, or critical perspectives on Christian congregational music?

My paper identifies the implicit claim in the modern worship (and the closely related church growth) movement, outlines a framework for critiquing this claim, examines a proposal that functions as a corrective, lists challenges to such a proposal, and presents a case study that models this proposal.

To phrase it as questions:

1. What is the implicit CLAIM of the modern worship movement in the non-denominational church?

2. What framework can be developed to CRITIQUE the claim?

3. Whose proposal can function as a CORRECTIVE?

4. What are the CHALLENGES with such a proposal?

5. Is there a CASE STUDY of a non-denominational church modeling this proposal?

BLURB: What if we haven’t simply translated worship into the language of culture but have adopted the liturgies of culture as well?

There is an implicit claim in the non-denominational church, seen in both its worship and church growth movements, that forms are neutral and therefore interchangeable. But is it true? How can we tell?

Drawing on the work of Christian philosopher, James K. A. Smith, Packiam develops a framework to critique this claim. He then uses the late Robert Webber’s proposal of an “Ancient-Future Worship” as a corrective, outlining the challenges with implementing this proposal in the non-denominational church. Finally, the paper concludes with a case study of a non-denominational church moving to re-form its congregational worship practices.



The paper is about 3400 words (12 pages).

DOWNLOAD it HERE for only $0.99 Even if you don’t really want to read it, think of it as a “Kickstarter” to offset my cost of travelling to Oxford! 🙂 Oh….You don’t have to have a Kindle to read it…you can download a FREE Kindle app for your computer, smartphone or tablet HERE

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