Academic Programs 

Improving the Worship Experience: Theology and Music   (AM-530-3)     
Summer 2003

Music is a vitally important part of Christian worship.  This course will explore the different forms of Christian music within their contrasting theological and worship settings.  From Handel’s Messiah to Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, the course looks at the craft of ‘singing’ and ‘playing’ these musical pieces effectively along with an understanding of the contextual history and social location.  Each day of the course will start with a Christian worship service, which will apply some of the insights developed in the course.  This course is particularly suited to lay musicians and those who love singing. 

Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
June 16 – 20, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Ian Markham
Professor of Theology and Ethics

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500

Eric Tebbett
Adjunct Professor of the Arts of Ministry and Principal of the Cambridge Academy of Worship and Music

Contact Information:
(860) 509-9500

Topics to be covered:

The course is organized around eleven contrasting pieces of Christian music.  Each day will divide into three: (a) the general overview, (b) the musical craft, and (c) the theological context.  The general overview will introduce the broad themes, which are as follows:

  • What is worship
  • Musical and Revivalist Preaching
  • Music and the Charismatic Movement
  • Music and Liturgy
  • Music and Biblical narrative
  • The Spirituals

The eleven contrasting examples of Christian music will then be explored both in terms of musical composition and theology.   The week will be organized as follows:

Monday: Amazing Grace: Can it be

Tuesday: Shine Jesus Shine; Magnificat and Nunc Dimmitis

Wednesday: Handle’s Messiah; Elijah Mendelssohn

Thursday: Streams of Worship; Swing Low Sweet Chariot

Friday: Just as I am; I lift my hands.

Rationale for and goals of the course: 

This course meets a number of the teaching goals; it is aimed at clergy, pastors, lay people with an interest in the musical experience.  It stresses the diversity of traditions underpinning Christian worship and affirms the importance of the contextual and historical location. 

The major goals of the course are as follows:

1.  To enable students to have a greater appreciation of the role of music in Christian worship;

2.  To provide students with guidance about the arrangement and delivery of a good musical experience for a congregation;

3.  To cultivate a sense of the diverse forms of music within the Christian tradition and a grasp of some of the major theological issues underpinning these different forms.

Learning Outcomes of the course:

Students at the end of the course will:

Have a clearer understanding of the importance of and diversity of music within the Christian tradition; Have participated in and appreciated the importance of the delivery of a good musical experience for a congregation; Have a clear understanding of the relationship of music to worship and the related theological issues underpinning. 

Method/s of Delivery:

Singing, playing, lecturing, discussion, and worship services.

Method of Assessment:

Prior to the course:
Five page book Review of Ronald P. Byars, The Future of Protestant Worship. Beyond the Worship Wars  (WJK 2002) (learning outcome one)

During the course:
Participation in a small group of the preparation and delivery of part of a worship service to held at Hartford Seminary Chapel (learning outcome two)

After the course:
15 page paper which must explore the relationship of music to worship and theology and take at least, as illustrations, two contrasting traditions.

Select bibliography

Ronald P. Byars, The Future of Protestant Worship. Beyond the Worship Wars  (Louisville: Westminister John Knox 2002)

Christopher Idle, ‘Hymns: Surprising Light’ in The Expository Times  Volume 112, No. 7 April 2001: 225-228

Andrew Wilson-Dickson, The Story of Christian Music. From Gregorian Chant to Black Gospel An Illustrated Guide to all the Major Traditions of Music in Worship  (MN: Fortress Press 1996)

Howard Thurman, Deep River and the Negro Spiritual Speaks of Life and Death  (A Howard Thuman book 1975)

J. McKinnon, Music in Early Christian Literature (Cambridge 1987)

A. Sendrey, Music in Ancient Israel  (London 1969)

J. E. Stevens, Words and Music in the Middle Ages  (Cambridge 1986

C. Schalk, A Handbook of Church Music  (St Louis 1978

D. Davie and R. Stevenson, English Hymnology in the Eighteenth century  (Los Angeles 1980

M. Percy in J. Jobling and Robert Hannaford, (ed.) Theology and the body: gender, text and ideology (Leominister 1999)


Hartford Seminary  77 Sherman Street  Hartford, CT  06105   860-509-9500