Mount expert discusses ‘Gospel Music in Black Churches’

January 17, 2014

Newburgh, NY -

Mary HintonMary Hinton, vice president for academic affairs at Mount Saint Mary College, recently blended song, soul and scholarship in a presentation about “Gospel Music in Black Churches.”

“You can trace the history of the church and the black community though Gospel music,” Hinton explained.

In the historic black church, praying, preaching, and singing are viewed as the three pillars of religious life, according to Hinton.

Before African Americans were allowed open access to the pulpit or were provided the space and opportunity for prayer, they created and shared communal songs.

These spirituals focused on freedom, resistance, and a quest for humanity.

“During the Desmond presentation we learned that many people, and traditions, utilize song and praise to celebrate their history,” said Hinton of the event. “We shared our passion for music and song, and some even contributed their beautiful voices to the experience.”

Hinton, who began her career in higher education as a religious studies faculty member at Misericordia University and has taught in the graduate programs at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, and in the University of Pennsylvania Executive Doctorate in Higher Education program, detailed the evolution of black sacred music beyond spirituals and through several identifiable phases: including songs of sorrow, prayer and praise songs, meter music, hymns of improvisation, and historic and modern gospel music.

Each of the musical phases corresponds to various time periods in the history of African Americans and reflects not only varying musical styles and typographies, but also struggles in the African American community.

Hinton’s studies have been published in a number of outlets, including her book “The Commercial Church: Black Churches and the New Religious Marketplace in America,” wherein the scholar’s research notes departures from the sound Christian theology that historically, in the areas of preaching, prayer and praxis, shaped a communal identity of African Americans in black churches.

Additionally, Hinton’s expertise in the historic black church was featured in the reference book “Religious Leadership.”

Hinton’s chapter, titled “Leading Historically Black Church Congregations,” explores if there is a difference between religious leadership in the black church and other churches, and if it is important to maintain any distinctive elements of that leadership within a contemporary context.

During her tenure at Mount Saint Mary College, Hinton has overseen academic affairs, strategic planning, academic assessment, institutional research, and retention efforts.

She has guided the development of the Center for Student Success, focused on college-wide retention efforts including academic coaching, advising, developmental courses, tutoring, and the Higher Education Opportunity Program.

Hinton has also coordinated a series of “inclusive excellence” talks at the college, which featured discussions of young adult spirituality, diversity in the classroom, African American history, and more.

Prior to serving at Mount Saint Mary College, Hinton held several roles at Misericordia University, including associate VP of academic affairs and chief planning and diversity officer, and assistant professor in religious studies.

Hinton, from Milford, PA, earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Williams College in Williamstown, MA, her master’s in clinical child psychology from the University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS, and a PhD in religion and religious education with high honors from Fordham University.

In addition to having taught college level courses, maintaining an active research agenda and publishing articles, she also has experience in identifying and replicating successful practices in K-12 public education.