"Our church never sounded so good singing as they did last night. Thank you."
-Kate Guthrie, Pastor
New Creation Presbyterian Church
"Those who sing their praises double them," wrote St. Augustine, "because of the joy and the love that belongs to those who sing." When communities sing together, the bonds of faith, connection, and healing grow. Singing is one of humanity's oldest ways of communicating, and one of the most universal spiritual practices. It simultaneously engages the mind, heart, and body, knitting us together as one, even while we maintain our independent identities.
All human beings are born with an innate capacity to sing, but many people struggle to find their voices because of the unhelpful messages they receive about singing from family members, churches, choir directors, and Western art culture in general. Kristen has over a decade of experience leading congregational singing in a variety of spiritual and religious contexts, helping people to find their voices and inviting them to participate more fully in liturgy and worship.
Song Leadership Training:
Taizé Chant from the Taizé Community in France
Congregational Singing from John Bell of the Iona Community in Scotland
Singing in the African-American Tradition from Ysaye Barnwell of Sweet Honey in the Rock
Spirituals & Songs of the Civil Rights Movement from Kim & Reggie Harris
Traditional Old Time & Appalachian Folk Singing from The Swannanoa Gathering
Contemplative Chant & Songs of Presence from Cynthia Bourgeault's Wisdom School
Leading paperless chant at the 2014 International Buddhist-Christian Conference in NYC
Music for Liturgy & Worship
Liturgy creates "thin" places, in which the boundaries between ourselves, others, and God become more porous. Authentic worship has the power to bind us together in solidarity with one another, inviting us to open ourselves to the movement of the Holy in our midst, both individually and collectively. The deep spirituality at the heart of the Christian liturgical tradition transforms us at the level of mind, heart, and body. Music in worship helps to facilitate this transformation.
Questions about instrumentation, rhythm, lyrical content, and presentational style are highly contextual and need to be carefully discerned within each particular community. What is "appropriate" or reverent for an older, predominantly white suburban Episcopal congregation in the American South may be different from what is appropriate for a Presbyterian church of Dominican immigrants in Brooklyn, or a predominantly Black Roman Catholic congregation in Ohio. There is no "one size fits all" approach to music for liturgy. However, worship should always strive to respect and incorporate the associations of the local community, the traditions of the larger denomination, and the potential for healing, transformation, and spiritual formation that can occur through singing and musical engagement.
Contemporary Worship Music
Old-Time & Bluegrass Gospel
Traditional Hymns (guitar or piano)
Cantor (Responsorial Psalms)
Funeral Music & Memorial Services
Meditative Music for Prayerful Reflection (guitar or piano)
Hymn & Chant Recordings
Kristen has composed contemplative chants, psalm settings, mass settings, and other liturgical music, as well as original songs and hymns inspired by Biblical texts, and is currently working on an album of traditional hymns and original music inspired by the women in Scripture.
Hymns & Devotional Songs:
Experience & Experiments
Kristen studied music at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and holds a Masters of Divinity (M.Div.) from Union Theological Seminary in New York City with a concentration in Worship & the Arts. Kristen has benefitted from a diversity of song leadership trainings, and has over a decade of experience planning liturgies and leading worship for churches, retreats, festivals, and religious conferences. Kristen is able to think historically, theologically, artistically, and multiculturally to produce meaningful and multivalent rituals that speak to different liturgical traditions, denominations, scriptural themes, church seasons, and formational goals. Click on the video below to learn more about Union's unique ecumenical approach to liturgy and worship:
Kristen has led congregational singing and worship music in Episcopal, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, UCC/Congregational, Quaker, Baptist, Evangelical, UU, and interfaith contexts. She has also been a part of several new and creative worship experiences and experiments, including:
In 2011, Kristen worked with the organizers of the first Wild Goose Festival to coordinate a team of 8 production staff and 23 support volunteers to manage the sound and staging for this NC-based festival that explores the intersection of art, spirituality, and social justice. Kristen has performed at Wild Goose Festival many times and remains an active part of the festival's wider community network.
From 2010-2013, Kristen served as a song leader and liturgical assistant for this weekly overnight youth lock-in at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.
From 2012-2014, Kristen assisted Music Director Jeannine Otis & Rev. Winnie Varghese with planning and performing in this annual liturgy that combines the traditional Episcopal Good Friday service from the Book of Common Prayer with a powerful musical and theatrical rendition of the Passion according to John's Gospel, featuring Grammy-award winning singers and instrumentalists from around New York City.
Taizé Advent Retreat @ St. Francis Springs
From 2016-2018, Kristen prepared and led the annual Advent Taizé Retreat at St. Francis Springs Catholic Retreat Center, combining congregational song leadership with musical direction of an instrumental ensemble featuring piano, guitar, bass, clarinet, oboe, flute, cello, and harp.
"Beer & Hymns" is a pub sing-along tradition that got started at the Greenbelt Festival in Cheltenham, England. Kristen helped to establish an American version of Beer & Hymns at the Wild Goose Festival in 2012, and nowadays you can find Beer & Hymns sing-alongs at pubs all over the country. Kristen has hosted a Beer & Hymns pub sing-along at Four Saints Brewery in downtown Asheboro, NC since 2016.
Booking & Fees
To book music for a Sunday or evening worship service, please fill out the contact form below, providing your church's name, denomination, location, average size of your congregation, and the time and length of your service. The standard fee for planning, preparing, and leading/performing worship music is $150 per service, with a sliding scale for smaller churches with a limited budget, and for services where the music selections are chosen by a music director or clergy. Please note that travel fees may apply. Fees for weddings, retreats, special events, and other performances will vary depending on a variety of factors.
Workshops & Trainings
Kristen offers classes, workshops, and trainings in music, liturgy, and singing as a spiritual practice, for churches, retreats, and other spiritual practice groups. Her workshops on communal singing specialize in unleashing the voices of people and congregations who are shy about singing or who don't consider themselves "singers." Each offering can be adjusted to meet the specific needs of your congregation or group. Click here for more information on Kristen's workshops.
Liturgy & Music Consulting
Kristen also offers consulting services for churches struggling with questions relating to liturgical or musical style, drawing on her training as both a musician and liturgist, as well as extensive research on the history of music and worship the early church.
What is Paperless Singing?
Paperless singing is a deeply communal form of singing that emphasizes listening and awareness, and can serve as a bridge between the so-called "traditional" and "contemporary" styles of modern worship music. For most of Christian history, congregational hymns and chants were sung without any printed sheet music or words. Music was composed and learned orally, through mimetic patterns of call and response. "Paperless singing" offers congregations a "new" way of singing together that draws on this ancient tradition. Songs and chants are taught through a simple, invitational method that utilizes an extensive nonverbal vocabulary of body language, which grounds congregations in a shared sense of presence with God and one another.
There are paperless songs and chants for a variety of contexts and gatherings, for every church season, and for all sung parts of the Eucharist, including the Kyrie, Gloria, Alleluia, Acclamation, Sanctus, etc. The music can be easily integrated into any liturgical or music style. It can be led in any space, with large or small congregations, and with or without sound amplification or instrumental accompaniment. Certain songs and chants can be supported with a tambourine, frame drum, or shruti box (to provide a simple drone), but in most cases the singing is a cappella. Even small congregations of very shy singers will be surprised by how easily they are able to find their way into the music.
For more information, download this information sheet or watch the video above from Music That Makes Community, a nonprofit organization promoting the practice of paperless singing through training, workshops, and other events.