Worship across the Racial Divide: Religious Music and the Multiracial Congregation

Worship across the Racial Divide: Religious Music and the Multiracial Congregation

Worship across the Racial Divide: Religious Music and the Multiracial Congregation

Worship across the Racial Divide: Religious Music and the Multiracial Congregation


Many scholars and church leaders believe that music and worship style are essential in stimulating diversity in congregations. Gerardo Marti draws on interviews with more than 170 congregational leaders and parishioners, as well as his experiences participating in worship services in a wide variety of Protestant, multiracial Southern Californian churches, to present this insightful study of the role of music in creating congregational diversity.

Worship across the Racial Divide offers a surprising conclusion: that there is no single style of worship or music that determines the likelihood of achieving a multiracial church. Far more important are the complex of practices of the worshipping community in the production and absorption of music. Multiracial churches successfully diversify by stimulating unobtrusive means of interracial and interethnic relations; in fact, preparation for music apart from worship gatherings proves to be just as important as its performance during services. Marti shows that aside from and even in spite of the varying beliefs of attendees and church leaders, diversity happens because music and worship create practical spaces where cross-racial bonds are formed.

This groundbreaking book sheds light on how race affects worship in multiracial churches. It will allow a new understanding of the dynamics of such churches, and provide crucial aid to church leaders for avoiding the pitfalls that inadvertently widen the racial divide.


Thanks first and foremost to the pastors and administrators, worship leaders and music directors, singers and musicians, as well as longtime members and first-time visitors of the twelve racially and ethnically diverse churches studied for this book. Any insight available is made possible by the gracious cooperation of clergy, staff, members, and visitors of these churches as they generously shared their worship experiences. Their openness and candor not only makes this research possible but also allows knowledge gained from their experiences to be shared with others who hope to achieve their success. Any errors committed in my sincere attempt to accurately describe the dynamics inherent to these churches are solely my own.

I am also grateful for grant support from the Louisville Institute that allowed for extensive data gathering in the multiracial churches included in this study. Executive Director Jim Lewis provided enthusiastic support for this research well after the funding period ended. The project was also enriched through my involvement as a Congregational Studies Team Fellow as part of the Engaged Scholars Project funded through the Lilly Endowment in the company of outstanding social scientists of religion, including Steve Warner, Nancy Ammerman, Bill McKinney, Jim Nieman, Penny Edgell, Larry Mamiya, Jackson Carroll, Carl Dudley, Nancy Eiesland, Robert Schreiter, and Jack Wertheimer. Special thanks especially to Bill McKinney, who during his tenure as President of the Pacific School of Religion took time both during and after my sojourn as a Fellow for timely feedback and ongoing encouragement.

During my research, I also benefited from a unique opportunity to review recent transformations in Christian worship through the Seminars in Christian Scholarship program at Calvin College in 2006 under the leadership of John Witvliet, Director of the Institute for the Study of Christian Worship. John, who deserves great respect for his mastery of worship history and contemporary practices, was also instrumental in making my time the following summer . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.