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Questions for the Director – Resources for White Churches Doing Racial Justice Work

This question recently came in to The Hymn Society staff. It’s a variation on a question we get asked a lot, so I thought it would be a great blog post to share more widely.


The Question

Good morning,
I’m writing on behalf of the Racial Justice Task Force at St. ________ Episcopal Church in ______.  As a predominantly white congregation seeking to become a more Beloved Community, we are exploring ways we can be more respectful, inclusive, and accountable in including Negro Spirituals into our worship services, as well as in our music and educational programs. Would you know of any written or video resources to guide us in best practices of other predominantly white congregations on this same journey?  We’d appreciate any recommendations you may have.
We are already looking forward to Dr. Eileen Guenther’s visit and presentation to our congregation in early 2023.  In preparation, we are reading her book (In Their Own Words: Slave Life and the Power of Spirituals) and hoping to do some additional research and learning on the subject.

The Answer

Dear sister in Christ,

First, I’d like to thank you for the work you and your congregation have done and continue to do concerning racial justice. The sins of white supremacy and Christian nationalism continue to take precious lives and the church must repent and run tirelessly towards God’s kingdom on earth. Please be encouraged that you are doing Godly work and that when you fail (and in doing this difficult work you will most certainly fail or take missteps), it is an opportunity to learn and keep moving! Below is a list of resources (most of which are congregational song focused since that is our area of ministry) that I hope you’ll find helpful.

I hope this list of ideas and resources help in your journey. God be with you!
Brian Hehn, Director of The Center for Congregational Song


This episode is with pastor and producer out of Richmond, Virginia, David Bailey. Rev. David M. Bailey believes that the Church should and can lead by example in diversity and reconciliation. He’s the founder of Arrabon; a ministry that equips churches and nonprofits with the tools and resources to shepherd their community from aspirational values regarding diversity along racial, ethnic, and class divisions towards an embodied practice. He is the author of Arrabon: Learning Reconciliation through Community and Worship Music, and the producer of the Urban Doxology project. David and his wife Joy live in Richmond, VA.


Season 1 – Episode 5

An interview with pastor and producer David Bailey focusing on the church’s song, race conciliation, and his own personal faith journey through music.



Listening time: 40 minutes


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I started tinkering around the piano at age 8, and really started playing at age 11.


I think songs matter, but I think songs matter [more] in context.


Michael Jackson was great…he was a genius! But the most number of albums he sold was with Quincy Jones.


All theology is a story of cultural influence.


When you’re a music producer, you’re pretty much a cultural anthropologist…what makes someone dance in a club is one thing, what makes someone dance in a country club is one thing, and what makes Presbyterians sway is another thing.