For God's Joy: Autistic Persons and the Role of Music in Public Worship

Zoe Alice Strong, Armand Leon Van Ommen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Theologically, every member of a Christian community is valuable and essential to the community. Unfortunately, churches do not always live up to this theological truth when it comes to autistic people.1 One way in which this is evident is that churches are not always willing to adjust sensory input, which can cause autistic people to struggle.2 Music—a sensory experience—is a fundamental part of the worship of most churches.3 Often music has also been seen to benefit autistic people as it can be a form of communicating emotion that does not need words. Keeping both of these functions of music in mind, we will explore the role of music in church for autistic individuals.

Through ten interviews with autistic individuals, this article considers the role of music for autistic worshipers in engaging with both the worship service and, more broadly, their own spirituality. Moreover, this article highlights what autistic people may be able to teach the Christian community about music in places of public worship.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-356
Number of pages21
Early online date1 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

The research for this article was made possible by a Carnegie Vacation Scholarship, awarded to the first author by the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.


  • autism
  • music
  • worship
  • liturgy
  • theology


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