Not the Words: Hymnody, Enacted Theology and the Lutheran Inupiat

by Kathleen McCoy  |   

Kristin Helweg HansonKristin Helweg Hanson is an adjunct professor of religion and philosophy at UAA. She has mastered the "interdisciplinary background," with degrees and experiences in nursing, education and religious studies. However, her key credentials are a Certificate of Women's Studies and a Ph.D. in religion, both from Emory University. She is intrigued by "lived religion," or the study of how religious systems find expression and change within particular lives, times and places. She uses feminist ethnography to probe "lived" phenomena such as how Inupiaq cultural understandings transform Protestant practices and theology. Her interests also encompass women in religion, religion and education, comparative theology and Alaska female missionary history. Her recent papers and presentations have been on topics such as ethnographic ethics, debunking myths regarding Islam, religious roots of Western public education and the tergiversating nature of "ordinary" religion. She says one of her greatest passions is teaching and her favorite forum is the undergraduate classroom.

Kristin feels privileged to have spent time learning from Lutheran Inupiat in Anchorage and on the Seward Peninsula of Alaska since 1999. Published in the Winter 2009 issue of Dialog Vol 48:4 (pp.348-357), is Kristin's article "Not the Words: Hymnody, Enacted Theology, and the Lutheran Inupiat." In the abstract of the article she explains that the theology of hymnody is not text-bound. She asserts that for the Lutheran Inupiat of Anchorage (Alaska), the practice of singing enacts the important theology. The Lutheran Inupiat still use the missionary hymns of the 1880s-early 1900s. Her article explores how singing hymns simultaneously perpetuates Inupiaq spiritual culture and participates in the adopted Lutheran heritage. Inupiaq naming-practices and song-genealogies enrich Christian understandings of the 'communion of saints,' which is enacted through singing.

For more information, contact Kristin at

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