Name: Brian Schrag
Organizations/Affiliations: Ethnomusicology and Arts Coordinator, SIL International; Founder, Center for Excellence in World Arts; GEN VP of Education and Training
How did you get started in ethnodoxology?
By being friends with people who made up the word and then built the network: Paul Neeley, Robin Harris, and more. I came alongside what Robin and GEN were doing in the early 2000s. At that time, I already had an M.A. in ethnomusicology and had worked in DR Congo doing Bible translation and ethnomusicological research, encouraging people to use their arts in the church.
It was during my time in Congo, at a funeral in Bili among the Mono people, that the idea of a catalyst and research library first came to me—research connected with indigenous hymnody, connecting local, traditional music with the creation of traditional hymns. After receiving a PhD from UCLA, I came to Dallas as the SIL International Arts Coordinator and also taught principles of ethnodoxology in the linguistics school in Dallas. Ethnodoxology was a combination of what I had learned from Vida Chenoweth about ethnomusicology and other missiological principles; Tom Avery and I worked on extending these principles from music to the other arts.
What has been one of your favorite moments in ethnodoxology?
I was living in France after being in Congo. When I returned to Dallas for a conference, Paul and Linda Neeley took me to their church in Duncanville, TX, and after being away in foreign contexts for so long, it meant so much to worship God in my own heart artistic languages. Hearing songs that I knew and were familiar to me, I started weeping. This is one of the experiences that I want to help other people have—to be able to connect with God in the deepest ways possible.
What do you hope will be different in 25 years through ethnodoxology?
In 25 years I hope there will be no ethnomusicology, ethnoarts and ethnodoxology—instead, arts will be integrated into every central mission strategy in the world. Arts can be the most powerful forms of communication. Jesus is not just the written word; logos was also involved in causing the universe to come into existence through his words, creating things (flowers, animals) and cultures (various styles of singing, dancing, etc.). I hope that the use of arts will be second nature, the default stance in learning what God is creating in other people’s communities.