Dr. Sharon Fennema Named Assistant Professor of Christian Worship & Director of Worship at PSR

May 21, 2014

Dr. Sharon Fennema has been named the new Assistant Professor of Christian Worship & Director of Worship Life at PSR. Fennema has taught classes in worship, music, theology and critical theories, led workshops and retreats, and composed worship resources for churches and seminaries across the United States.  Most recently a Lecturer on Ritual, Liturgy and Preaching at Harvard Divinity School, she earned her Ph.D. in liturgical studies from the Graduate Theological Union, and also holds a Bachelor of Music degree, magna cum laude, in Voice Performance from St. Olaf College and a Masters of Arts in Religion degree, summa cum laude, from Yale University Divinity School and Institute of Sacred Music.  

Her research addresses the intersections of critical and gender theories with Christian worship as practices which form identity and perform theology.  Drawing on queer theory, including the writings of Judith Butler, as well as the performance theories of Richard Schechner, her recent work includes an historical ethnography of the worship practices of a San Francisco community of faith during the height of the early AIDS crisis in the United States, using it as the source for the creation of what she calls “a liturgical theodicy in practice.”  Other current writing projects bring together critical race theories, postcolonial theory and worship, as well as apophatic theologies, queer theory’s antisocial thesis and practices of lament.  

Dr. Fennema brings to her work expertise and training in music. As a frequent solo vocal and choral performer as well as recitalist and church musician, she has performed across the U.S., Canada, Europe and Australia with renowned musical ensembles, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, the St. Olaf Choir, the Minnesota Orchestra, and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.  

As a liturgical scholar who is committed to the study and understanding of Christian worship as it is lived and experienced in various traditions and cultures and a lay leader in the United Church of Christ, she is passionate about enabling religious leaders to develop worship services, spiritual practices and lived theologies that meet the complex needs of people living in the 21st century, while drawing on the rich histories and cultures of their community, their geographical location, their justice commitments and their religious heritage.  

Dr. Fennema’s most recent essay “Postcolonial Whiteness: Being-with in Worship” will appear in Only One is Holy: Liturgy in Postcolonial Perspectives edited by Claudio Carvalhaes published by Palgrave Macmillan Press in the Fall of 2014.