Call for Papers: Amazing Grace and its legacies: reflections at 250

Amazing Grace and its legacies: reflections at 250

15-16 July 2022, The Open University and Olney Parish Church

Call for Papers

John Newton’s ‘Amazing grace’ can lay claim to be one of the best-known hymns worldwide. Believed to have been written in late 1772 in preparation for a New Year’s Day service at the Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul, Olney, where Newton was curate, in the ensuing 250 years it has been sung and heard around the world in many different guises, both sacred and secular. Its connections with John Newton’s own life and ministry, its popular status in the USA and beyond, and performances of it by famous singers, religious leaders and politicians are several of the ways in which its meanings and influence have been expressed.

This conference, co-hosted by The Open University, The Cowper and Newton Museum and Olney Parish Church, seeks to examine the hymn and its legacies in this 250th anniversary year. It will feature keynote addresses from Prof Bruce Hindmarsh (Regent College, Vancouver, BC) and Prof Anthony Reddie (Regent’s Park College, Oxford University). Scholars from any discipline and drawing on any methodology are invited to propose twenty-minute papers on any topic relating to ‘Amazing grace’, its influence and legacy. Possible topics may include but need not be limited to the following:

  • ‘Amazing grace’ and its eighteenth-century contexts
  • Literary and theological analyses
  • The words and music of ‘Amazing grace’: tunes, arrangements, re-tunings
  • Performances and performers, e.g., Aretha Franklin, Barack Obama, Andrea Bocelli
  • ‘Amazing grace’ and the Black Christian Experience
  • ‘Amazing grace’ and American identity
  • The global afterlives of ‘Amazing grace’, e.g., interpretations or popular/religious place in Africa, Asia or South America
  • ‘Amazing grace’ in film and other media

Proposals of no more than 250 words should be submitted via by 1 January 2022. Decisions will be communicated by 1 February 2022. Papers will be presented on Friday 15 July 2022 at The Open University. We are currently planning to hold the event in-person but will also facilitate online participation for delegates who are unable or do not wish to travel (details TBC). The second day of the conference will be held at Olney Parish Church and will feature keynote lectures, a roundtable discussion, tours of the Cowper & Newton Museum, and a concert.

Please direct any queries to

Conference committee

Gareth Atkins (Cambridge University)

Nancy Jiwon Cho (Seoul National University)

Martin V. Clarke (The Open University, chair)

Matthew Williams (University of Bristol)

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