One in five people lives with a diagnosable mental health problem in any given year. Thus, the presence of mental illness already permeates faith communities. The church’s history with mental illness remains complicated, especially as some communities of faith continue to espouse negative lay theologies that are harmful and dismissive to people living with mental health problems. Guided by the tenants of liberation theology, this thesis argues that mental health justice is a part of God’s overarching justice intended for all creation. When we, as God’s people, encounter or observe injustice, it is our theological task to gather the weary, the oppressed, and the marginalized and bring them back to their seat at the table of God’s grace where God calls them by name: beloved.
This document proposes that pastoral musicians, clergy, and others charged with planning and facilitating worship are essential to developing a theology of mental health that welcomes and accepts all people into the family of God, regardless of physical or mental, or emotional disability. Within communities of faith, engagement with such a task begins within the context of worship, for the musical and liturgical choices we make as pastoral musicians shapes our community’s understanding of the Body of Christ in all its wonder and diversity. Therefore, when people with mental health challenges see and hear themselves and their lived realities of mental illness represented in the musical and liturgical landscape of their faith community, they are liberated from destructive stigmas and can break the chains of prejudice, stereotypes, and injustice.
Dr. C. Michael Hawn
Dr. Jeanne Stevenson-Moessner
Music, Theology/Religious Education
Number of Pages
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
Doerries, Hillary, "We Will Hold Onto You: The Liberating Power of Music and Liturgy to Break Open the Stories of Mental Illness in Communities of Faith" (2022). Doctor of Pastoral Music Projects and Theses. 8.