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Joshua Kalin Busman

Joshua Kalin Busman is a Lecturer in Music History at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. He earned his PhD in Musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also holds a BM in Music Theory and Composition from Middle Tennessee State University as well as an MA in Musicology from UNC-CH. His research deals with pop and rock-styled worship music in American evangelicalism using ethnography, phenomenology, and post-structural analyses.

“Corporate Worship, Group Singing, and Mass Mediation at the Passion Conference"
The Passion Conference, founded in 1997, has quickly become one of the most influential media networks in global evangelical Christianity. Passion events routinely convene on all six populated continents and draw tens of thousands of college students and young adults at every stop. A January 2013 event in Atlanta, Georgia brought together nearly 130,000 people (65,000 in person and 65,000 over the live web stream) for a weekend of preaching, teaching, and most importantly, singing. Group singing is not only the most frequent communal activity at Passion, occupying more than three hours of the schedule on each of the conference’s four days, it is also one of the most fundamental. At these events, evangelical Christian theology is consistently presented through experiences and metaphors of sound. I argue that the importance of singing, particularly in large groups, lies in its ability to negotiate between the immutable truths of evangelical theology and the vast array of embodied difference present in evangelical worship.

Through their live web stream, extensive online media content, and official recordings from their in-house record label, musical performances from the Passion Conferences also reverberate beyond the walls of the conference and become situated in a variety of local and personal worship practices. These performances help to create an aural lexicon of “authentic” worship that is largely encoded and reified with reference to sonic experiences. In many cases, singing amounts to something like an “audible way of being in the world” rather than a neatly-bounded musical activity. Drawing from fieldwork conducted at Passion events as well as work with local congregations whose worship practices incorporate Passion influences, my paper will explore the spiritual effects of Passion's group singing model and the ways that these effects are perpetuated and expanded through recordings and local performances.

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