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Review: Singing the Congregation

Regrettably, as a result of the so-called "worship wars," music and worship have become conflated within evangelical circles. A performance mentality has led to participation in worship as a distinct social activity. In Singing the Congregation (Oxford, 2018), ethnomusicologist Monique Ingalls explores how singing contemporary worship music forms evangelical worshiping communities. Ingalls targets five distinct ways in which evangelical worshipers conceive themselves: concert, conference, church, public, and networked congregations.

Each chapter is devoted to a different model; Ingalls probes how concert congregations seek to lift Jesus' name, how conference congregations seek to form an eschatological community, how church congregations seek to create a distinct worship voice, how public congregations seek to take religion outside of the church, and how networked congregations seek to build community outside of the church walls. Her research is certainly thorough, based on new, empirical research and deep interaction with the scholarly corpus. Making music together, claims Ingalls, is a primary way of forming evangelical worshiping communities.

Ingalls stands out as one of the leading church music scholars who is able to speak of contemporary worship music in theological and sociological terms. Insights abound in this interesting read for worship scholars and leaders. With this book, Ingalls begins to fill a lacuna of literature surrounding the growing contemporary worship movement. Her five modes of congregating is an essential foundation for talking about evangelical worship with cogency. It is certain that this book will become one of the most important sources for understanding the sociology and spiritual formation of contemporary evangelical worship experiences.

(A complimentary review copy was given in exchange for an honest review.)

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