WMSHC Community Values and Guidelines

The Western Massachusetts Sacred Harp Community (WMSHC) hosts numerous weekly, monthly, and annual events that bring singers together for fellowship and singing. Our community represents a breadth of identities related to age, religion, singing experience, sexual orientation, gender, race, ethnicity, nationality, education, ability, and socio-economic status. 

We, WMSHC’s Board and membership, aim to create an inclusive and welcoming environment that values everyone’s participation, and we recognize that our tradition has at times fallen short of that aim. We want our singing spaces and community to be built upon a culture of mutual respect and understanding, where all can sing and socialize without fear of harassment or exclusion.

We all share responsibility for supporting each other in creating and maintaining a space where everyone feels welcome, included, and honored, both at our singings and at social events that may surround them. Our intentions and actions — seeking consent in our interpersonal interactions, being aware of how we share space and time with each other, carefully considering the impact of our words and actions on others, and respecting each other’s boundaries and differences — mirror the unity we seek in our singing.* 

If you have questions about these guidelines, please seek out one of our Board members. 

What if I have an experience at a WMSHC event that is at odds with these values?

As a first step, we encourage you to speak directly with the other person or people involved. If you don’t feel comfortable doing that, or if it doesn’t resolve the issue, please seek out one of our Board members. 

Our goal is to support you and help you feel as safe and comfortable as possible in our space — whether that means just listening and keeping the conversation confidential, or working with you to problem-solve and make a plan to address the situation.

Whenever possible, we strive to assume good intentions, resolve misunderstandings, and cultivate a space where all members of our community can participate fully in accordance with our values. 

*As a tradition with Christian heritage and with singers from many denominations and faith traditions (including none), we expect singers to encounter some degree of theological difference between their own beliefs and the book’s poetry. Independent of these theological differences, several songs in the 1991 Denson revision of the Sacred Harp have texts that are considered by many to marginalize certain identities. These songs (78 Stafford, 115 Edmonds, 160t War Department, and 211 Whitestown) are seldom called in our community.

Last updated: January 2020.