Tommy Shapard (2016 Cohort)
Thomas Shapard, DPM ’21, is an ordained Baptist minister serving as Minister of Music and Worship at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church (Jacksonville, Florida). In addition, he is on the faculties of the University of North Florida and Florida State University where he is a choral music director and teaches church music.
"I Can't Breathe": Toward a Pneumatology of Singing and Missional Musicking for Racial Justice in Jacksonville, Florida
Advisor: C. Michael Hawn
Second Reader: Marcell Silva Steuernagel
Community Reader: Ulysses Owens Jr.
Doctoral of Pastoral Music Conferred: August 2021
Thesis completed and approved with Honors: May 28, 2021
This thesis develops a philosophy of musicking that intersects with missional ecclesiology and expands the role of music-making beyond the church walls. The central hypothesis assumes that predominantly white congregations in the Free Church tradition located in the southern United States incorporate ways of singing that reinforce, albeit inadvertently, attitudes toward others that buttress white ethnocentricity. Musical practices arising from a Western European heritage can promote cultural exclusivity as well as a perceived—yet false—sense of superiority. Is there an implicit theology of singing in white churches that engenders a culture of complicity and apathy in matters of racial injustice, or are there alternative ways of understanding singing that can encourage white Christians to join the journey for racial justice?
The author employs an interdisciplinary methodology and identifies ways music-making as social activity builds community and reframes relationships across the color line in Jacksonville, Florida. Detailing an ongoing partnership with Ulysses Owens Jr., and Don’t Miss A Beat, Inc., the author offers a first-hand account of exploratory steps in missional musicking and augmenting the music program at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church. The author prescribes a pneumatology of singing that connects missional musicking to the life-giving breath of the Spirit and the responsibility to form more equitable communities reflective of the earliest Christian community as recorded in Acts 2. After discussing his own missteps, challenges, and increasing awareness, the author shares his thoughts on “white work,” anti-racism, and cross-cultural musicking, particularly how musicians in white churches can join the journey for racial justice.