RELEVANCE, SELF-DETERMINATION, AND UNIVERSALITY THROUGH ST. AUGUSTINE CATHOLIC CHURCH'S GOSPEL CHOIR
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The Second Vatican Council provided ample opportunity for individual Catholic parishes to choose music that suited their congregations and contribute to the “Universal Church” through their particularity. St. Augustine Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. formed a gospel choir in light of this newfound freedom. Based on about one year of participant observation, this thesis analyzes the Gospel Choir’s role in making the Mass more relevant and interactive for parishioners. Singers maintain certain practices and ideals of the Church that they know make their ministry more effective while acknowledging the shortcomings of Catholicism at an institutional level. They animate listeners to respond dialogically with the Mass, allowing their lived experiences to inform their spiritual transformations. After more than 40 years, the Gospel Choir continues to navigate the boundaries between sacred and secular, Catholic and Protestant, and contrasting conceptions of African American identity.