Culture Clashes in Local Congregations

Clark, Linda J. “Culture Clashes in Local Congregations.” Speech given at the Boston Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, February 27, 1995.

“Culture Clashes in Local Congregations” serves as an initial report by Linda Clark before the Boston chapter of the American Guild of Organists on her project “Worship, Music, and Religious Identity,” in which she shares her study’s preliminary findings on the connection between a congregation’s musical style and its sacred worldview. This project follows an earlier one dating to 1989, where Clark and her associates studied 24 United Methodist and Episcopal congregations in Southern New England to learn about the relationship between a person’s music and faith, and how one’s responses to music shape actions and beliefs. The follow-up project—a study of musical style and religious identity in three Methodist congregations in and around Boston—reveals that a congregation’s musical style creates and sustains its religious identity, and that congregations use music and worship to create and fill their own sacred space. This helps to explain why cultural conflicts exist not only between congregations adopting different worship styles but also between the people in a congregation and their leadership. Clark believes worship leaders have two important responsibilities: (1) to maintain the vital relationship between the music and faith among a people whose culture may be different from that of the leaders; and (2) to nurture music excellence in the church.