Queer Hymns

Introducing queer hymns in a congregational setting

This information has been copied directly out of Cedar Klassen’s undergraduate thesis, “Fabulous Hymns and Where to Find Them: Catalogueing Queer Hymnody”.

When introducing queer hymns in inclusive churches, it may be tempting to introduce them as queer hymns: that is, to draw attention to the hymns’ queerness. While this could be intended to make queer people feel more welcome by highlighting their inclusion, it can actually have the opposite effect: drawing attention to the fact that these hymns, and the issues they address, are different, or in some way outside of the congregation’s norm. Drawing attention to queer hymns can have the effect of “othering”: reinforcing the boundary between the non-queer majority “us” and the queer “them”; between “our hymns” and “their queer hymns”.

Additionally, when introducing a queer hymn in worship, it is important not to break the flow of the service. Try to choose a queer hymn that fits the theme of the service, or works well with the scriptures used. Remember that queer hymns are just hymns; choose them as you would any other hymns for worship.

If your congregation regularly learns new hymns, introduce queer hymns the way you would any other new hymn. If your congregation doesn’t regularly learn new hymns, or if you personally are not comfortable introducing a new hymn, the United Methodist Church has provided a useful guide for church musicians. If your congregation struggles with new music in worship, consider introducing queer (and other) hymns before the start of the service, so that people have a few minutes to learn a piece before later singing it as part of the worship service. Another option is to choose queer hymns that use familiar tunes from mainline hymnody: Adam Tice’s hymn “Quirky, queer, and wonderful” is set to ROYAL OAK, best known as “All things bright and beautiful”, Laurence Bernier’s hymn “Our God is like an Eagle” is to WEBB, which might be familiar from “Stand up, stand up for Jesus!” or “Bless’d be the God of Israel”, and many other queer hymns either use, or could be set to, familiar tunes.

If using queer language or addressing queer topics in church would be a stretch for your congregation, you could also consider introducing queer hymns in a workshop or adult Sunday-school context, either on the theme of queer inclusion, if that’s appropriate for your congregation, or more generally on hymns of social justice and inclusion (see Damon and Johnson for more discussion of social justice hymnody). People are often most resistant to change in worship, but may be more willing to sing a queer hymn in worship that they had first learned in another setting. This also allows congregants to learn unfamiliar words and music without breaking the flow of a worship service.