Let Justice Sing Down: Congregational Songs for Our Times

The two-day music festival unites individuals and choirs, clergy and laity from Winston-Salem area faith communities in musical celebration of shared worship and common concerns of social justice in our city, our country, and our world. Worship leadership includes some of most acclaimed church musicians in the United States.


Festival Schedule

Friday, November 3
7:00 p.m. Festival I: From Racism to Grace+ism
Saturday, November 4
9:00 a.m. Festival II: Sing Justice in the USA
10:30 a.m. Break
11:00 – 11:50 a.m. Breakouts I
11:50 a.m. Lunch
1:00 – 1:50 p.m. Breakouts II
1:50 – 2:15 p.m. Break
2:15 p.m. Festival III: Songs for a Suffering World:
Singing in the Sanctuary and the Streets

Festival Details

This free festival is open to all. No registration required.


When: Friday, November 3 – Saturday, November 4

Where: First Baptist Church on Fifth, Winston-Salem (view parking info at bottom of this page)


Sponsors Include:

Wake Forest University School of Divinity, First Baptist Church on Fifth, First Baptist Church on Highland Avenue, Knollwood Baptist Church, Mt. Tabor United Methodist Church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, Grooms & Payne Organ Builders, and The Hymn Society in the United States & Canada

  • Festival I: Friday, 7:00 p.m.

    From Racism to Grace+ism

    Festival Leaders

    • James Abbington, Candler School of Theology, Emory University
    • D’Walla Simmons Burke and the Winston-Salem State University Singing Rams

    Guest Speaker

    • Bill Leonard, Dunn Professor of Baptist Studies and Professor of Church History, Wake Forest University School of Divinity
  • Festival II: Saturday, 9:00 a.m.

    Sing Justice in the USA

    Festival Leaders

    • Brian Hehn, The Hymn Society and The Center for Congregational Song
    • Mark A. Miller, Drew Theological School and the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University

    Guest Speaker

    • Jill Crainshaw, Acting Dean and Blackburn Professor of Worship and Liturgical Theology, Wake Forest University School of Divinity
  • Breakout Sessions: Saturday, 11:00 a.m. and 1 p.m.

    Breakouts I

    Saturday morning, 11:00 – 11:50 a.m.

    New Hymnal Preview: “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism: An African American Ecumenical Hymnal” with James Abbington, FHS*

    Scheduled for release by GIA Publications in 2018, this new volume contains and represents many diverse styles and genres, including traditional ecumenical hymns, contemporary texts written for the 21st Century church, praise and worship selections, music from Taizé, responsorial psalmody, Negro spirituals, and traditional and contemporary gospel music.

    I Am Your Mother: Singing Creation – Singing Hope with C. Michael Hawn, FHS *

    An overview of how creation theology has evolved from Francis of Assisi (“All Creatures of Our God and King”) through the 21st century with the idea that there is little hope for peace (shalom) among people unless we take care for the resources of the natural created order.

    Building (and re-building) Sacred Memory:  Hospitalities for Transforming a Congregation’s Repertoire with Jorge Lockward

    The need for a worship life that speaks, relates and informs our times is crucial and urgent. The faithful, continued and renewed building of sacred memory is at the heart of the Christian Tradition. The songs we sing are icons and vehicles of this sacred memory.  This workshop will explore and engage tested and practical strategies for deep and long-term transformation of a congregation’s heart-repertoire.

    Breakouts II

    Saturday afternoon, 1:00 – 1:50 p.m.

    From Racism to Grace-ism via Hymns and Spirituals with D’Walla Simmons-Burke

    Maestra D’Walla Simmons-Burke, speaks of a yearning for freedom that endures from the time of slavery through these rancorous days we find ourselves in today.  These spirituals are an outcry from an unjust place, providing a soundtrack for the journey ahead. They give voice to the sorrows of the past and present.  Take part in this reconciliation process with “The Burke Singers” and Maestra Simmons-Burke.  “Reconciliation means working together to correct the legacy of past injustice.”  President Nelson Mandela and Nobel Peace Prize Winner

    Introducing The Center for Congregational Song with Brian Hehn

    Come learn about this newly launched initiative of The Hymn Society from its Director. Not only will we explore the key concepts and guiding stances of our ecumenical work, you will get a first-hand look at the new Resource-Connection-Tool, which is a ground-breaking new resource designed to connect church musicians to books, blogs, articles, podcasts, clinicians, etc.  – all centered around congregational song.

    Sacred Songs & Social Justice Reading Session with Mark A. Miller

    For a number of years Mark Miller has been writing congregational music offering affirmation and empowerment particularly to LGBTQ persons, people of color, and also for all those committed to the struggle for justice. The reading session will explore Miller’s newest book “Roll Down, Justice!’” and other recent original songs that respond to today’s urgent social justice questions.

    Choir Rehearsal for Closing Hymn Festival

    Anyone wishing to participate in a “pick-up choir” for the closing festival, report to the Sanctuary for rehearsal and instructions led by the presenters, Michael Hawn and Jorge Lockward.


    *Fellow of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada

  • Festival III: Saturday, 2:15 p.m.

    Songs for a Suffering World: Singing in the Sanctuary and the Streets

    Festival Leaders

    • C. Michael Hawn, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University
    • Jorge Lockward, former Director of the Global Praise Program of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church

    Guest Speaker

    • Darryl Aaron, Senior Pastor, Providence Baptist Church, Greensboro, NC

Festival Leaders


Photo of James Abbington

James Abbington, currently Associate Professor of Church Music and Worship at Candler School of Theology, Emory University in Atlanta, GA, was previously a professor of music in the Department of Fine Arts at Morgan State University. Prior to his tenure in Baltimore he was Associate Professor of Music and Chair of the Department of Visual and Performing Arts at Shaw University in Raleigh, NC (1998–2003). He is also the Executive Editor of the African American Church Music Series published by GIA Publications, Inc. of Chicago and has served as co-director of the annual Hampton University Ministers’ and Musicians’ Conference since 2000.

Photo of D'Walla Simmons-Burke

Maestra D’Walla Simmons-Burke has held teaching positions in Georgia, South Carolina and presently at Winston-Salem State University (North Carolina) where she is the Director of Choral and Vocal Studies for the Department of Music. Simmons-Burke is the founder of four of the five choral ensembles currently existing within the Music Department at Winston-Salem State University (Winston-Salem State University Singing Divas; Schola Cantorum; Complesso Voce’ and the renowned Winston-Salem State University Burke Singers). The fifth choral ensemble – the Winston-Salem State University Choir (aka Singing Rams) is one of the first student organizations, founded at the university. Her choirs have performed master choral works, spirituals and world music with major symphony orchestras both domestic and internationally. 

Photo of Brian Hehn

Brian Hehn is an inspiring song-leader equally comfortable leading an acapella singing of “It Is Well” as he is drumming and dancing to “Sizohamba Naye.” Experienced using a variety of genres and instrumentations, he has lead worship for Baptists, Roman Catholics, United Methodists, Presbyterians, and many more across the U.S. and Canada. He received his Bachelor of Music Education from Wingate University, his Master of Sacred Music from Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, and is certified in children’s church music (K-12) by Choristers Guild. He has articles published on sacred music and congregational song in multiple journals and co-authored the book All Hands In: Drumming the Biblical Narrative, published by Choristers Guild. While working for The Hymn Society as the Director of The Center for Congregational Song, he is also Associate Music Minister at Prince of Peace Catholic Community of Plano, Texas, and adjunct professor of church music at both Wingate University in Wingate, North Carolina and Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX. Brian lives in Dallas,
Texas, with his wife, Eve, and son, Jakob.

Photo of Mark A. Miller

Mark Miller currently serves on the faculty at both the Drew Theological School and the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University where he teaches music and worship. He also is Director of the Gospel and Youth Choirs at the Marble Collegiate Church, in New York City. From 1999 to 2001 he was Music Associate and Assistant Organist of The Riverside Church in New York City. Mark is well known throughout the United Methodist Church as a worship leader, teacher and performer of sacred music. Abingdon Press has written that he is a “rising star in the field of Protestant music.” Since 1997 Mark has performed concerts and directed conferences at churches both across the United States and internationally.

Photo of C. Michael Hawn

C. Michael Hawn, F.H.S., is the University Distinguished Professor of Church Music and Director of the Master of Sacred Music Program at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas. He joined the faculty in 1992 after teaching for fifteen years in two Southern Baptist seminaries and serving congregations as minister of music in Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas. Dr. Hawn has received numerous fellowships for the study of global hymnody and worship, and has conducted research and taught in forty countries. His publications include over 400 articles and books. Since 2004 he has written a weekly column entitled “History of Hymns” for the United Methodist Reporter. Hawn contributed over twenty entries to the Canterbury Dictionary of Hymnology (2013), primarily in the area of sub-Saharan African hymnody. In 2006, Michael Hawn was the music director for the Ninth Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Porto Alegre, Brazil. He was elected Fellow of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada in 2008.

Photo of Jorge Lockward

Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, Jorge Lockward currently lives in New York City where he works as the Minister of Worship for a United Methodist church in the Northwest Bronx, leads the New York based ecumenical chorale Cántico Nuevo, and also lectures on worship at Union Theological Seminary. Jorge is a former Director of the Global Praise Program of the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church. He was also a committee member of the Spanish Language United Methodist Hymnal, Mil Voces para Celebrar and has served as consultant on other denominational hymnals. He is the editor of Regocíjate y Canta (1995), a collection of Latino worship choruses, Tenemos Esperanza (2001) a trilingual (Spanish, Portuguese, English) songbook and recording, assistant editor of Global Praise 3: More Songs for Worship and Witness (2004) and co-editor of For Everyone Born: Global Songs for an Emerging Church (2008).


Ample parking is available in two lots on either side of the intersection at 6th and Poplar Streets. One lot is directly behind the main church building and the other lot is across Poplar Street. Limited street parking is also available on Spruce Street. 

Click image for full size.