Yale ISM Congregations Project

The Yale Institute of Sacred Music has just announced a new ecumenical initiative to strengthen the ministries of worship, music and the arts in congregations. It’s a wonderful project. ( I say this as an interested observer. As a “Friend of the ISM” I’ve been watching it come into being over the past several years.) It involves a week-long seminar for teams from several congregations, who then commit to bringing what they learn back to their home regions. The theme for 2011, “Worshiping God in This Place,” considers the actual inhabited landscapes upon which congregations live out their ministries.

You can read a press release about it here: http://www.religionnews.com/index.php?/pressreleases/ism_announces_creation_of_the_congregations_project_in_sacred_music_worship/

Or visit the website for the project here: http://www.yale.edu/ism/congregations

The Yale Institute of Sacred Music, an interdisciplinary graduate center, educates leaders who foster, explore, and study engagement with the sacred through music, worship, and the arts in Christian communities, diverse religious traditions, and public life.


  1. This looks really interesting. A pity that is has not happened before. Many universities in American have church music courses which are all about performance and nothing about liturgy and its demands. Could this be a turn for the better?

  2. Sebastian, let’s hope so! The Yale ISM does in fact happen to be unique, but it would be good if other institutions were inspired to “go and do likewise.”

  3. This sounds like a wonderful initiative! With that said, I’m curious about which “arts” other than sacred music the seminar will address.

  4. Great question, Jeffrey. I don’t know exactly what the seminar will cover, but some arts that might be included are: the visual arts; architecture and sacred space; preaching, poetry (such as hymn texts) and the crafting of words for prayer; and everything that might be termed “the art of celebration.”

    Performance arts such as dance and theater have never been well represented in programs geared toward Christian congregations anywhere I think, to be honest. My own assumption is that this is the case simply because so few congregations draw upon these arts on a regular basis. (Congregations have music at every worship service, but a mystery play? Liturgical dance? Not many. I know of one congregation in California that dances every Sunday.) Nevertheless, the religious use of these arts is a fascinating subject that continues to generate interest today. So, who knows? Maybe it will emerge in one of the participants’ projects that come out of the seminar.

    Thanks for that question! I am hoping that more information about the Congregations Project will be shared through their website as the project develops.

  5. Thank you for the illuminating feedback, Rita! I look forward to following this project as it progresses.

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