B.A., Dickinson College; Ph.D., Harvard University
Elisabeth Luce Moore Professor of Christian Studies; Professor of Religion
Academic and public interpreter of religion in American history in the Colonial, Revolutionary, and Early National periods.
I am currently writing two books on the theme of religion and transatlantic culture in colonial Anglo-America. One is a detailed study of a sacred music manuscript I have discovered in South Carolina called The Cashaway Psalmody (1770). It is the earliest surviving music from the colonial Lower South. My research on it has opened a vast and unexpected perspective on the creation of colonial culture through transatlantic and inter-colonial lives, religious and ethnic communities, and musical and literary transmission. The other is a history of sacred song in colonial Anglo-America from the English Reformation to William Billings. This research has provided many unstudied writings on the theology of praise and new patterns of sacred music development in the colonies for me to interpret. Elements of this work will appear in “Sacred Music in Colonial America,” a chapter in the forthcoming Cambridge History of Religions in America .
As a scholar and teacher of religion in American culture I have designed my courses to engage with a variety of cognate disciplines—Religion in America (History), Religious Themes in American Literature (English), and Religion, Law, and Politics (American Studies, Political Science). As holder of the Elisabeth Luce Moore Chair in Christian Studies, I offer courses in Christian thought from the Reformation to the present and Christian ritual. My third curricular area is ethics, for which I teach a basic course as well as one or two seminars. I will be offering a new ethics seminar on Religion and Violence in Fall 2010. I am a great believer in dialogical teaching. Discussion takes up one-third to virtually all of my class sessions depending on the course subject.
I am especially involved with three professional organizations. I have served a three-year term on the Council of the American Society of Church History and was a member of the Program Committee for its 2010 annual meeting. I am closely associated with the American Antiquarian Society, having received two of its Senior Research Fellowships, and taught its annual American Studies Seminar for Worcester-area colleges. I am especially close to the Massachusetts Historical Society as a founding member of its Boston-area Seminar in Early American History, chair of its Small Fellowships Committee, and moderator of its current “Conversations” public program.
Sacred music is one of my greatest passions. In 1976, my first year at the College, I founded a campus singing group devoted to learning Early American sacred music, especially psalmody. Nearly 35 years later I continue to lead it as Norumbega Harmony, a community of singers of international reputation that has performed more than one hundred concerts at New England colleges, libraries, and historical societies, released three recordings, and published a collection of early New England psalmody researched and produced entirely by its own members.