Original Research

Liberating language and concepts of the divine in contemporary hymnody

June Boyce-Tillman
Verbum et Ecclesia | Vol 38, No 2 | a1614 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v38i2.1614 | © 2017 June Boyce-Tillman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 April 2016 | Published: 30 November 2017

About the author(s)

June Boyce-Tillman, Centre for the Arts as Well-being, University of Winchester, United Kingdom; School for Music, NorthWest University, South Africa


This article will examine from an auto-ethnographic perspective the language of hymnody and how it has developed over the last 25 years through the period of secularisation and postsecularisation. It will interrogate and analyse the words used for the Divine in a drive towards an inclusive language approach to God. It will look at the arguments of feminist theologians towards feminine images for the Divine and then how far these images will be acceptable in secular contexts, especially in secular rituals that include people from a variety of belief backgrounds in a post-secular world. It will use examples from woman writers and draw on the author’s experience of revising her own hymns for a variety of contexts. These will be interrogated in the light of debates around spiritual but not religious, multifaith dialogue and post-secularisation. It will look at a variety of approaches to the Christian narrative in contemporary UK – devotional, cultural and story – examining the language appropriate for these various approaches and various contexts.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: Hymnology crosses the disciplines of music, theology, liturgy and ritual (sacred and secular) and has implications for all these areas, especially Church liturgy and sacred music in secular contexts. It is lyrical theology, which spans the arts and theology and expresses theological ideas in an artistic form.



post-secularisation; hymnody; the Divine; auto ethnography; spirituality


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