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“Much of American religion and spirituality has been shaped, defined, and promoted through its hymnody. . . . The subtext for this volume is how immigrants sang their faith in the New World of the U.S. and Canada. The contributions range from the experiences of slaves, women, and Native Americans in the early 19th century through the transplanted experiences of Presbyterians, the linguistic issues of German Mennonites, Swedish Covenanters, and Spanish-speaking Protestants, to the nondenominational radio revivalism of the early 20th century. . . . [Significantly assists in the task of fitting together the historic and cultural pieces of American religious music.”—Journal of the American Academy of Religion (JAAR)
“A collection organized around an effort to study the hymnody of American Protestant groups in relation to more general issues of religion and society. . . . In all, they make salient points for students of American religion, including to stress the importance of hymnody as an object of study . . . and to emphasize that hymns represent crucial statements of what believers believe and what their religion means to them.”
—Journal of Southern Religion
About the Author
Christopher Armstrong is Emeritus Professor in the Department of History at York University.
Singing the Lord's Song in a Strange land describes the cultural beliefs and lay theology of American Christianity through the use of hymn music. Particularly, it is focused on how immigrants of all different stripes and from different places used (or didn't use), adapted and adopted what they had to work with once they arrived in America, debated whether or not to use the American hymn tradition, and how this affected attitudes towards all of those late Twentieth Century classification schemes (race, class, sex, etc.).
Seeing these are articles by different scholars representing different people groups, I will simply list the people groups that are treated in this book, rather than go into detail about each. The individual people groups discussed are Georgian slaves, women, and Native Americans, Canadian and North American Presbyterians, Swedish immigrants, German and Russian Mennonite communities, Pentecostal and Holiness movements (some of which are actually heterodox or heretical sects, - which is noted), and Latino Protestantism.
This work is a scholarly work, and is likely better suited for someone who is either highly interested in the topic that is willing to be introduced to new names or someone who already knows something of the material. Otherwise it might be a bit dry. However, studying theology from a perspective of music is something that is widely overlooked, especially by systematic theologians. It's often not considered 'real' theology. However, historian Mark Noll has noted that this idea should be put to rest: ". . . evangelicalism is at its best when seen through its hymns" (xiii). The systematics might not like it and might not understand expressing theological truth through song simply because most systematic theologians don't do that themselves. While I come less from an artistic background, this book showed me that ignoring our (evangelical tradition) hymnal tradition is only detrimental.
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