Sarah Kathleen Johnson is pursuing a PhD in Theology at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. Her research at the intersection of sociology of religion and liturgical studies is centred on the roles of Christian ritual practices in increasingly nonreligious and religiously diverse social contexts. Examples include memorial events following mass shootings, worship in theistically diverse communities, and ongoing participation in Christian life-course transition rituals such as baptisms and funerals. Toronto is the location of the fieldwork for her ethnographic dissertation. Sarah is also on the editorial team for a new hymnal and worship book intended to serve Mennonite congregations in Canada and the United States, and is the editor of an accompanying volume of leader resources. Originally from Waterloo, Ontario, Sarah completed an MTS at Conrad Grebel University College and an MAR at Yale Divinity School before living in Ottawa for five years, where she served as a pastor at Ottawa Mennonite Church and worked in communications for the federal government. Sarah and her partner Carl currently call Etobicoke home.
PhD candidate, University of Notre Dame, current
MAR, Yale Divinity School, 2010
MTS, University of Waterloo/Conrad Grebel University College, 2008
BA, University of Waterloo/St. Jerome's University, 2007
With Carl Bear. “Medieval Hymns on Modern Lips: An Analysis of Medieval Texts and Tunes in Twenty-First-Century Protestant Hymnals.” The Hymn 69.1 (Winter 2018):10-16.
“On Our Knees: Christian Ritual in Residential Schools and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.” Studies in Religion / Sciences Religieuses 47.1 (March 2018): 3-24.
“Meeting Mystery in Mennonite Worship: Presence as Absence Empowers Ethics.” Worship 84.3 (May 2010): 253-274.
“The ‘Shared Convictions’ of Mennonite World Conference in Developmental Context and Ecumenical, Anabaptist and Global Perspective.” Conrad Grebel Review 27.1 (Winter 2009): 36-56.
Selected Conference Presentations
“Shaping the Sung Theology of the Future Mennonite Church,” workshop facilitated at the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre graduate student conference in Toronto, Ontario, 2018.
“How ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ Matter: Christian Ritual Repertoire and Official Memorial Events Following Mass Shootings in the United States,” delivered in the Critical Theories and Liturgical Studies seminar at the annual meeting of the North American Academy of Liturgy in Vancouver, BC, 2018.
“Listening for Harmony and Dissonance in Overlapping Ritual Systems,” delivered at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, Ritual Studies Unit, in Boston, Massachusetts, 2017.
“Rest in Ambiguity: Unitarian Universalist Ritual Responses to Death,” delivered at the annual meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in Washington, DC, 2017.
“Initiating Children at a Distance from the Church: Pastoral Realities and Theological Questions,” delivered at the biennial congress of Societas Liturgica in Leuven, Belgium, 2017.
“Medieval Hymns on Modern Lips: An Analysis of Medieval Texts and Tunes in Twenty-First-Century Protestant Hymnals,” delivered with Carl Bear at the annual conference of the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, Emerging Scholars Forum, in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, 2017.
“The Ritualization of the Ordinary: Sharing Joys and Concerns at First Unitarian Church” contributed to a roundtable discussion of the work of Anthony Pinn in the Critical Theories and Liturgical Studies seminar at the annual meeting of the North American Academy of Liturgy in Washington, DC, 2017.
“Trusted Structures, Shared Stories, Embodied Symbols: Interaction Ritual Fosters Solidarity in a Theologically Diverse Unitarian Universalist Church,” delivered at the Chicago / Notre Dame Graduate Conference on Theology, Ethics, and the Death of God at the University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, 2016.
“Clerical Perspectives on Initiating Children at a Distance from the Church,” delivered at the annual meeting of the Association for the Sociology of Religion in Seattle, Washington, 2016.
“The Political Theology of Hymnal: A Worship Book,” delivered at Sound in the Lands conference at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, 2009.
Scholarships and Awards
SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, 2015—2020
Graduate Student Affiliate, Kellogg Institute of International Studies, University of Notre Dame, 2017—2020
Legacy Initiatives Fund Grant, Mennonite Church Eastern Canada, 2018—2019
Doctoral Fellowship, Louisville Institute, 2016—2018
Research Funding Award, Center for the Study of Religion and Society, 2018
Full Scholarship, North American Academy of Liturgy, 2018
Emerging Scholars Forum Winner with Carl Bear, Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, 2017
Graduate Professional Development Grant, Nanovic Institute for European Studies, University of Notre Dame, 2017
SSSR Student Travel Award, Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, 2017
SSHRC J. Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship – Master’s, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, 2007—2008
President’s Graduate Scholarship, University of Waterloo, 2007—2008
Departmental Award Winner for Distinguished Academic Achievement in Religious Studies, University of Waterloo, 2007
Austin C. Lovelace Scholarship, Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, 2007
Undergraduate Fellowship, Fund for Theological Education, 2006—2007