WHEATON – Wheaton College Associate Professor of Music Tony Payne knows the importance of singing.
"We want to promote at Wheaton a singing campus," Payne said. "That means that we want more people singing and participating in music."
Payne was one of the participants in "Centered in Song," a conference on congregational singing co-sponsored by the Wheaton College Conservatory of Music and The Center for Congregational Song. The all-day conference was held Feb. 1 at Wheaton College’s newly completed Armerding Center for Music and the Arts.
"You are trying to promote experiences that make singing not only pleasant, but rewarding, impactful and fun," Payne said. "My life's motto is, 'Sing each other's songs.'"
The conference closed with a hymn festival led by Wheaton College Associate Professor of Music John Trotter.
"He wasn't promoting perfectionism, he was just saying, 'Sing, bring your voice to the group and share,'" Payne said.
Brian Hehn, director of The Center for Congregational Song, said the center's goal is to bring together those who are passionate about congregational singing.
"We launched in October with an event in Dallas, but we've been doing many events like this all over the country to kind of just raise awareness about our goals and then to meet new friends and sing together and learn from each other," Hehn said.
He said events like the one at Wheaton College help to "open the conversations."
"Hopefully these events create new relationships and friendships, and then conversations kind of blossom into other things," Hehn said. "Singing is something that's fundamental to being Christian. And singing together shapes who we are as a people and what we believe. So the more we can get people singing together, and singing robustly, the deeper our faith will become as a people."
La'Quentin Jenkins, worship leader and singer at St. John AME Church in Aurora, attended the conference and participated in the hymn festival that closed the conference. Jenkins said he enjoyed being around like-minded individuals.
"The conversations we had really stemmed from a variety of topics, from performance etiquette to participatory worship to congregational singing as a whole and how we can improve that at our various locations," Jenkins said. "Everything today was just necessary. It was needed, just being around like-minded individuals who seek to glorify God in music."