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Journal for the Study of Religion

On-line version ISSN 2413-3027
Print version ISSN 1011-7601


KLOPPERS, Elsabé C.. Singing and Sounding the Sacred - the Function of Religious Songs and Hymns in the Public Sphere. J. Study Relig. [online]. 2020, vol.33, n.1, pp.1-23. ISSN 2413-3027.

Hymns are commonly sung in the public space of worship. They often also function in other public as well as private spheres. Religious singing in public spaces forms bridges between personal faith, the church, and public Christianity, while at the same time also forming bridges to a pluralist, secular, and post-secular society. I depart from the premise that the singing of hymns in the public sphere constitutes a form of religion lived in public. When the singing is reflected upon and discussed in public, also in social media, it can be seen as a form of public theology. Aspects of the reception histories and narratives of hymns, functioning in the wider public sphere in various countries and in various contexts and times, are discussed with regard to the possible functions that the singing could fulfil in these contexts. It is shown that hymnody forms a part of the beliefs, self-concepts, values, symbols, identities, ideologies, instruments of power, sets of myths, and the collective cultural memory of people.

Keywords : Religious songs; hymns; hymnology; lived religion; religious singing in public; reception histories; protest songs; narrative method.

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