interior top image

2022 Annual Hymn Society Conference

Sing the World God Imagines

Washington, DC
The Catholic University of America

July 17-21, 2022


The Hymn Society’s Annual Conference is the premier conference focusing exclusively on congregational song in the U.S. and Canada. Each year it features top scholars from the U.S. and Canada as well as other international guests for plenary addresses, 4 hymn festivals planned and led by internationally recognized song-leaders, and over 40 breakout sessions on a variety of topics. The conference is held in mid-July each year at a different location within the U.S. or Canada.

To learn more about this year’s conference happening in Washington DC,
you can go to

Each of the 4 hymn festivals offered are always free and open to the public as a part of The Hymn Society’s mission to encourage, promote, and enliven congregational song in each location we host our Annual Conference.

Sessions include special breakouts for text writers, tune writers, and song writers with the opportunity to get written and verbal feedback from the leader on your submitted piece.

Those who attend The Hymn Society’s Annual Conference include church musicians, worship leaders, pastors & priests, composers, poets, publishers, and anyone else who is passionate about congregational song.

Recent Conference Leaders:
  • Rev. Dr. I-to Loh – Editor of Sound the Bamboo: CCA Hymnal 2000, Former Seminary President at Tainan Theological College, Ethnomusicologist, and Composer
  • Rev. Dr. Cynthia Wilson – Associate General Secretary of Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church, Director of the Center for Music and Worship in the Black Church Experience, and Award-Winning Singer
  • Dr. John Witvliet – Director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Professor of Worship, Theology, and Congregational and Ministry studies at Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary, Author of Over 7 Books
  • Rev. Dr. Molly Marshall – President and Professor of Theology and Spiritual Formation at Central Baptist Theological School, Past-President of the National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion, Author of 3 Monographs and multiple book chapters and articles
  • Dr. Miguel De la Torre – Professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at Iliff School of Theology, Author of Multiple Books and Articles, Past-President of the Society of Christian Ethics
  • Jorge Lockward – Past Director of the General Board of Global Ministries for The United Methodist Church, Minister of Worship at Church of The Village in the Northwest Bronx, and leader of the ecumenical chorale Cántico Nuevo
  • Rev. Dr. Paul Westermeyer – Professor Emeritus of Church Music at Luther Seminary, Past National Chaplain of the American Guild of Organists, Author of 5 Books on Church Music
  • Dr. John Baldovin, S.J. – Professor of Historical and Liturgical Theology at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry, Author of Multiple Books on Roman Catholic Liturgy, Past President of the North American Academy of Liturgy
  • Mark Miller – Assistant Professor of Church Music at Drew Theological School, Lecturer in the Practice of Sacred Music at Yale University, Published Composer by Abbingdon Press and Choristers Guild
  • Rev. John Bell – Composer and Song-Leader for the Wild Goose Resource Group of the Iona Community, Fellow of the Presbyterian Church of Canada and Royal School of Church Music, Editor of the Church of Scotland’s Church Hymnary (Fourth Edition)
  • Dr. Marcia McFee – Ritual Artist and Creator of Worship Design Studio, Author of Think Like a Filmaker, Guest Professor at Universities and Colleges across the U.S. and Canada
Recent Conference Locations:
  • 2022 – Washington, DC
  • 2021 – Online
  • 2020 – Online
  • 2019 – Dallas, Texas
  • 2018 – St. Louis, Missouri
  • 2017 – Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
  • 2016 – Redlands, California
  • 2015 – New Orleans, Louisiana
  • 2014 – Columbus, Ohio
  • 2013 – Richmond, Virginia
  • 2012 – Winnipeg Canada

Learn More and/or Register at

I am a music teacher and music therapist by training, as well as a church choir director. However, in March of 2020 I found myself with no choir, as I’m sure many of you did as well.

My husband, Rich, is the pastor of the United Methodist Church of Anacortes (Washington), where, pre-COVID, I directed the choir. He suggested finding ways to keep people singing. I understood the value of breathing to calm nerves, in addition to supporting singing. I knew the muscles used for singing can quickly atrophy—a weakness I was already recognizing in myself at that time. I also knew that music can provide strength and consolation during hard times. Though he’d used the word “hymn sing”, Rich indicated that phrase didn’t quite capture his hopes. After mulling over ideas, in mid-July 2020 we had the first Zoom meeting of Musical Connections, a name I felt captured my aims: to encourage people to keep singing and making music during challenging times, and to provide an opportunity for them to connect with one another in supportive dialogue.

Before beginning the sessions, I drew up a lengthy list of themes. These ideas served to create cohesive sessions as well as to provide opportunities for participants to offer suggestions. My confidence also increased as I saw multiple possibilities. Some of the original themes I worked with were: songs of comfort, strength, hope; children’s songs–those that created a foundation for us; songs which touch on nautical ideas since we are a seaside town; spirituals; songs which allude to light or vision; songs inspired from nature. A recurring “theme” since  summer 2021 has been to examine the hymns of writers or musicians whose names appear often in our hymnals or supplements. We had more participants than usual for our 2021 Christmas caroling session, as we quickly responded to impromptu requests. This involved finding then sharing the appropriate video in our now extensive video collection, which includes videos created by various singers in our congregation.

As we began our Zoom sessions we quickly realized that we needed to “up” our technological game. We first tried simply sharing lyrics on the Zoom screen and live acapella singing to lead participants, then did some recording with an inexpensive video camera. Within a couple weeks we began recording songs with my iPad, which we are still doing 2 years later. We added an external microphone  not long after beginning use of the iPad. This mic, made by Shure, made a huge difference in the quality of our recordings, helping us to capture a better balance between the singing and accompaniment (piano, guitar, ukulele, or drum). Perhaps the best resource is someone who can understand technology, your needs, and can make good suggestions. My husband worked with Sweetwater, a company based in Fort Wayne, Indiana, because their customer service is top-notch.

Concerning written musical resources, we have worked primarily with The United Methodist Hymnal.  I also purchased the accompaniment version for the supplemental hymnal in the pews at our church. Recognizing resources from other traditions, we’ve used some older Methodist hymnals, an old Presbyterian hymnal, an Episcopal hymnal, and one called Hymns for the Living Church. A few hymns we found online, some of which were free and some that required payment.

By late fall of 2020, as I offered more background information on hymn origins, our Musical Connections group recognized that some hymns were birthed in situations when faith was deeply tried. The most well-known story is probably that of Horatio Spafford, who penned the lyrics for “It Is Well with My Soul” when he was taken to the site where his daughters had perished when the ship they were on sank. Given the myriad difficulties our world was facing, I thought (in good music therapist fashion) that we could write a hymn to create an outlet for emotions and to keep a Christ-centered perspective. In music therapy work, songwriting often takes place in less than 30 minutes, usually setting the lyrics or collected ideas to a pre-existing melody. I was probably more surprised than anyone else when we gathered our ideas over several sessions and designated a poet from our group to craft our ideas into a hymn. Sara did a beautiful job, and then I was challenged to write music to enhance the lyrics. You never know where the road will lead when you set out!

As I write this, in winter 2022, we are still meeting via Zoom for an hour every Wednesday morning, with a usual pattern of singing and discussing 4 hymns. We are not usually a large group, typically hosting from 9 to 15 participants, but we are singing! May God bless you as you find ways to keep singing, wherever you are and whatever your situation.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions:

You are welcome to join us for one of our Musical Connections sessions if you’d like.


Mary Penhorwood Feagin

United Methodist Church of Anacortes

Anacortes, Washington