Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Program Name/Specialization

Pastoral Leadership


Martin Luther University College

First Advisor

Dr. Mark Harris

Advisor Role



The experience of singing together holds the potential to constrain or set free the imagination to shape worldview. Undergirded by Walter Brueggemann’s argument that a contest of narratives exists in twenty-first century North American church and society, the researcher draws from Mary (Joy) Philip’s call for “in-between space” created by safe haven and adjacency and Lee Higgins’ “boundary-walking” to understand the place of difference in a theological orientation to community singing practice. Rooted in a narrative paradigm and undergirded by an interdisciplinary approach, this inquiry explores the storied lives of sixteen singers in a faith-based singing community called Inshallah to consider how the experience of singing together as a relational way of knowing shapes worldview. Narrative methodology guides the conversations between the researcher and a purposive sampling of singers to co-construct narrative accounts which are analyzed using narrative thematic analysis, seeking themes within each account and resonant threads across accounts. By exploring the findings through the lens of experiential knowing, this dissertation discusses how storied songs become boundary-crossers, spirituality offers a horizon of wholeness, hospitality insists on welcoming difference, difference is embraced as necessary, and everyday life performs worldview. The researcher proposes that when a community singing practice nurtures a distinct sacred identity of relational connectedness, engages difference as a resource to be embraced, and renews vision through embodied witness, practiced vulnerability and orientation to wholeness shape the social imaginary with the possibility of awakened authenticity, deepened connectivity, and emboldened solidarity. This leads the researcher to assert that singing storied songs together from a horizon of wholeness subversively enlivens the imagination by negotiating and performing identity, relationships, and vision. This dissertation makes a contribution to narrative studies in the fields of community music, congregational song, and practical theology offering a critical interdisciplinary lens on the role of difference as it relates to community singing practice and leadership, while also contributing to sociological studies of world construction and psychological studies of sociological imagination.


Interdisciplinary study: Community Music, Congregational Song, Practical Theology

Convocation Year


Convocation Season