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Aesthetics and theology in congregational song

The singing practices and repertoire of any Christian congregation offer a site of aesthetics and theology. The act of singing itself is always culturally embodied and embedded, thus revealing complex relations between the musical ‘sounding’ of the poetry and the received theology of texts. What we learn to sing together in public worship and in devotion is at once experiential and formative of belief. Hymns, psalms and spiritual songs are central to every congregation’s faith experience over time, carrying more theological import than we may first be inclined to think. The one-liner attributed to Augustine of Hippo* is still apt: ‘They who sing, pray twice.’ Breathing, producing sound,...

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