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Ecstatic Experience in Pentecostalism and Popular Music

Mark Jennings

Based on two richly described case studies – a Pentecostal worship service and popular music festival – this book draws on sociology, theology and religious studies in order to understand the significance of ecstatic experience in these contexts. Interviews with performers in both settings, together with detailed first person accounts of worship services and live performances, combine to create a picture of the role of music, performance and space in catalysing ecstasy. Drawing on the work of thinkers as diverse as Michel Foucault, Emile Durkheim, Victor Turner and Friedrich Schleiermacher, this book demonstrates that religious and non-religious disciplines, paradigms and understandings can work in a complementary fashion to help us understand the significance of phenomena such as music and ecstatic experience.
Ultimately, the argument put forward in the book is that ecstatic experience takes place in both religious and secular settings and is best understood by both theistic and non-theistic approaches, working together. The ecstatic experience common to both contexts is theorised as ‘proto-religious phenomena’ – the kernel from which religion may develop.
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8. Conclusion


This chapter commences with a précis, revisiting the case studies and socio-cultural and theological-religious theories and theorists engaged throughout the body of this study. Following this, I will explore the implications of this book. Next I will briefly describe the limitations of this book, and point out those areas where there may be potential for future research. I will conclude with some final remarks about the significance of music and exaltation.

This book commenced with a case study of Breakfree church. My fieldwork at the church provided the data from which I composed a portrait of a typical Sunday morning at Breakfree church, from set-up to the conclusion of the service.

Chapter three provided an analysis of the case study as it was viewed through the lens of Theological-Religious studies theory. Ecstatic experience is the centre of the Breakfree service. Music is the catalyst for this experience. This experience is basically non-rational and involves the manifestation of some very strange practices, such as speaking in tongues. These practices mirror (or perhaps create) the non-rational nature of the divine. There are a number of gifted participants who exhibit a talent for using music to catalyse an ecstatic trance, much like the archaic shamans. Breakfree members link the music and experience closely to God. Music or experience which is not overtly Christian is viewed by Breakfree music team members as suspicious at best, demonic at worst. Further, Breakfree members use music as a technology to catalyse the...

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