Dr Tanya Riches

Dr Tanya Riches

Honorary Associate; HETPA Faculty: Masters of Theology (MTh) Program Director - Hillsong College

Tanya Riches has already achieved more than many dream of in a lifetime. Gaining scholarship to a PhD program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Los Angeles, she lived in Los Angeles for over two years. In this time, she worked as Chapel Co-ordinator, in the team planning liturgical worship services for the world's largest evangelical seminary. But most recently she has returned to her homeland of Australia to complete fieldwork -  an ethnography of Australia’s Indigenous Christians attending urban contemporary churches.

Her worship ministry first began in the worship team of Hillsong Church where she served for many years under Darlene Zschech, and Reuben Morgan. She published a number of well-known songs through Hillsong Music Australia, including ‘Jesus What A Beautiful Name,’ which reached #6 on Australia’s CCLI worship charts. And, she administrated one of the most successful worship bands in history, Hillsong United, for its first six years. Her song 'Hear Our Prayer' was on their second album, Everyday.

As lead singer of Australian independent band ‘Speaking of Sarah’, she performed weekly across Australia for many years - including mainstage at Australia largest Christian music festivals. During this time the band recorded and toured the album Seven Hundred Seasons (2006). When the founding musicians made a difficult decision to focus on family life, Tanya felt called to pursue theological studies, and completed her Masters degree, then MPhil, finally enrolling in a PhD.

She is now not only now a respected academic working in Pentecostal Studies and Missiology, but one of the world’s most respected scholars regarding the phenomenon of Hillsong Church. She is an honourary research fellow for the Cadbury Centre for Religion at the University of Birmingham, UK. She has taught sixteen week semester courses at Alphacrucis College, Sydney, such as 'Post-modern Worship Community' (2005) and 'Contemporary Worship' (2006). She has taught many lectures in classrooms all over the world (at Trinity College in Singapore, Emmanuel College in Canada, Regent University and Liberty University in Virginia, and Andrews University in South Bend to name a few). Her intensive 'Pentecostal Worship' intensive will be hosted at Malaysia's AlphaOmega College in 2015.

Her PhD research is an attempt further reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians, by bringing attention to the work of Indigenous Christian leaders in some of Australia's major cities (The Gold Coast, Perth and Cairns). Her deep desire is for justice.

This is not the first time she has sought to listen to those marginalized and quietened by dominant culture. Her first solo album Grace was a deliberate attempt to write from experiences she recorded during her research amongst people with disability while at The University of Sydney. This album was an ecumenical collaboration with some of Australia’s best songwriters.

Tanya believes that the power of worship is in individual voices joining as one to worship Jesus Christ. This is the power of Tanya’s leadership, in so many spheres. A thinker, a worshipper, a writer, a consultant, a poet. She will point you and your community heaven-ward. 


Ph.D. (Fuller Theological Seminary)
Dissertation Title Identity in the Spirit: Worship and Social Engagement in Urban Aboriginal-led Pentecostal Congregations 2016

M.Phil. (Australian Catholic University)
Dissertation Title Shout to the Lord! Music and Change at Hillsong: 1996 – 2007 2010

M.A. (Sydney College of Divinity) 2005

B.A. (The University of Sydney) 2000

Cert. IV TAE (Universal Education & Training) 2009

Research Interests

During COVID the potential of research funding was unable to be realised, and thus my scholarly work has been independently funded, working around childcare and other responsibilities. Three trips scheduled to the US/Canada to deliver plenary addresses were cancelled in 2020, with these the writing projects shifted into 2021. Despite all these challenges, this has been a productive year.

 My chapter on gendered violence “Nevertheless, She Persisted: Freeing Women’s Bodies from Silent Theological “Sacrifice Zones” was selected for the Society for Pentecostal Studies’ volume entitled "This is My Body": Addressing Global Violence Against Women. In addition, my chapter “Wisdom Cries Out: Towards a Feminist Pentecostal Theology of Disability” was selected as an essay by Jill Firth from Ridley College and included in the watershed volume Grounded in the Body, in Time and Place, in Scripture: Papers by Australian Women Scholars in the Evangelical Tradition. I am proud to have collaborated with Tau'alofa Anga'aelangi on a chapter on Oceanian worship practice for EUP and with British Black author Alexander Douglas to discuss African Americans at Hillsong Church, Sydney in “Hillsong and Black”: the ethics of style, representation, and identity in the Hillsong Megachurch.”

 I hosted the committee for a digital conference “Worship and the Megachurch” for the Edward Cadbury Centre at the University of Birmingham and was invited by this committee to give the opening address. This speech will likely be published in 2021 with a special edition collection of the conference papers, with another one to follow in 2022. The call to papers for another special edition of Australasian Pentecostal Studies was issued, with many of my students and colleagues of colour submitting to contribute to the collection.

 Although media writing was difficult to fit into my schedule, I kept my regular column on Worship and Missions for Worship Leader Magazine and was able to co-write some interesting pieces showcasing the diverse talents and practices of creatives at Hillsong Church. Throughout the year I was able to contribute to various teaching and speaking engagements via zoom, in fact almost too many to include in this document.

 My hope is that during 2021 I have another book volume in press, which is currently being reviewed by Bloomsbury. In addition, I have many special edition volumes, chapters, articles and media pieces in review or in publication that could not be outlined here but that will be exciting to complete. 

Field of Research

  • 1699 Other Studies in Human Society
  • 2002 Cultural Studies
  • 2103 Historical Studies
  • 2202 History and Philosophy of Specific Fields
  • 2204 Religion and Religious Studies


  • 2019
    • Riches, T. (2019). Worship and Social Engagement in Urban Aboriginal-led Australian Pentecostal Congregations: (Re)imagining Identity in the Spirit. Brill: Leiden.
  • 2017
    • Riches, T., Wagner, T. (2017). The Hillsong Movement Examined: You Call Me Out Upon the Waters. Palgrave MacMillan: Basingstoke, UK.

Book Chapter

  • 2020
    • Riches, T. (2020). The Work of the Spirit’: Hillsong Church and a Spiritual Formation for the Marketplace In Christina Rocha, Mark Hutchinson and Kathleen Openshaw, Australasian Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements: Arguments from the Margins (pp. ). Brill: Leiden.
  • 2019
    • Riches, T., Riches, V., O’Brien, B. (2019). “Colouring Outside the Lines”: Art-Makers with Disabilities In Loraine McKay; Susanne Garvis; Viviana Sappa and Georgina Barton (Eds), Arts-based research, resilience and well-being across the lifespan (pp. ). Palgrave MacMillan: Basingstoke, UK.
  • 2015
    • Riches, T. (2015). Panoptic or Pastoral Gaze? The Worship Leader in the New Media Environment In Anna Nekola and Tom Wagner (eds.), Congregational Music-Making and Community in a Mediated Age (pp. 61-80). Ashgate: Farnham, UK.
    • Riches, T. (2015). Dreaming Urban Indigenous Australian Christian Worship in the Great Southland of the Holy Spirit In Yong, Amos and Ingalls, Monique (Eds.), The spirit of praise : music and worship in global Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity (pp. ). Penn State University Press: USA.
  • 2013
    • Riches, T. (2013). An Australian Worship Leader's Journey: From Hillsong to "Singing Up Country" In , Handbook for Ethnodoxologists (pp. ). International Council of Ethnodoxologists.

Journal Article

  • 2019
    • Riches, T. (2019). Interview with Christie Jacobs. AustralAsian Pentecostal Studies (APS), Vol. 20 145-153.
    • Riches, T. (2019). Interview with Adam Gowen. AustralAsian Pentecostal Studies (APS), Vol. 20 100-104.
    • Riches, T. (2019). Interview with Will Dumas and Sandra Dumas. AustralAsian Pentecostal Studies (APS), Vol. 20 77-85.
    • Riches, T. (2019). Interview with Robyn Ober. AustralAsian Pentecostal Studies (APS), Vol. 20 128-137.
    • Riches, T. (2019). Spirit-filled Christianity and The Dreaming: Can Australia Create Space for Theological “Makarrata”. AustralAsian Pentecostal Studies, Vol. 20 4-17.
    • Riches, T. (2019). Interview with Pastor Ray Minniecon. AustralAsian Pentecostal Studies (APS), Vol. 20 86-99.
    • Riches, T. (2019). Interview with Glenda Ramsey. AustralAsian Pentecostal Studies (APS), Vol. 20 138-144.
  • 2018
    • Riches, T. (2018). Liturgical Inculturation in Urban Aboriginal Pentecostalism. Liturgy, Vol. 33, No. 3 54-62.
    • Riches, T., Phillips, E. (2018). Pentecostal Worship: Introduction. Liturgy, Vol. 33, No. 3 1-3.
    • Riches, T. (2018). Acknowledgment of Country: Intersecting Australian Pentecostalisms Reembeding Spirit in Place. Religions, 9 287.
  • 2016
    • Riches, T. (2016). Can We Still Sing the Lyrics “Come Holy Spirit”?. Pneuma, Vol. 38, No. 3 274-292.
  • 2015
    • Riches, T. (2015). A “Poetics” of Inter-faith Dialogue in Australia. Evangelical Interfaith Dialogue, Fall.
    • Riches, T., Riches, V. (2015). “Making Room for Spiritual Abilities: Towards Worship Practices that include. Australasian Pentecostal Studies, .
    • Riches, T. (2015). "My Identity is 'Indigenous Australian' and 'Christian' and it's not an Oxymoron": Urban Indigenous Australian Pentecostal Christianity. AnthroCyBib 'Milestones' Project, . | Link to journal
  • 2014
    • Riches, T. (2014). Ethical and Theological Reflections: Liturgical and Ritual Studies method in Australian Pentecostal Contemporary Congregational Worship. Australasian Pentecostal Studies, Vol. 16.
    • Riches, T. (2014). God's Brand is Love: Australian Immigrant Churches in the United States. Australian Journal of Mission Studies, Vol. 2, No. 7.
    • Riches, T. (2014). Aboriginal Australian Pentecostals taking the initiative in Mount Druitt’s urban songlines. Global Forum on Arts and Christian Faith, Vol. 1, No. 2 38-54.
  • 2012
    • Riches, T., Wagner, T. (2012). The evolution of Hillsong Music: From Australian Pentecostal congregation into global brand. Australian Journal of Communication, Vol. 39, No. 1 17.
  • 2010
    • Riches, T. (2010). The Evolving Theological Emphasis of Hillsong Songs (1996 – 2007). Australasian Pentecostal Studies, Vol. 13.

Research and Professional Grants

  • 2020
    • Linkage Grant LP190101011, $194, ARC


Academic Conference

  • 2021
    • Addressing Community Trauma via Dadirri, or, Toward an Aboriginal Australian Charismatic Inner Healing (2021), 50th Anniversary Society for Pentecostal Studies, Southlake, TX (Online), 19 Mar 2021
    • Nevertheless, She Persisted: Freeing Women’s Bodies from Silent Theological “Sacrifice Zones”” (2021), 50th Anniversary Society for Pentecostal Studies, Southlake, TX (Online), 19 Mar 2021
  • 2020
    • Mapping Megachurch Networks (2020), GloPent Conference, Birmingham, UK (Online), 31 Oct 2020
  • 2019
    • “ Tensions of Community and Belonging in a Service-Provider landscape.” Inclusion: Creating Spaces of Belonging into the Future (2019), L'Arche Australia 40th Anniversary Conference, Sydney, Australia, 07 Feb 2019
      Co-presenter: Taylor, D., and Jessep, S.
  • 2018
    • The Publishing Project (2018), Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability, Gold Coast, Australia, 12 Nov 2018
      Co-presenter: The CDS Inclusive Research Network
    • My Story, My Voice: Life Since the NDIS (2018), Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability, Gold Coast, Australia, 11 Nov 2018
      Co-presenter: The CDS Inclusive Research Network
    • Universal and Contextual: Marketing and Meaning in Hillsong’s Worship Music (2018), Durham Conference on Ecclesiology & Ethnography, Durham, UK, 11 Sep 2018
    • The Third Day: Syncretism, Heresy or Mediating Australian Realities? (2018), Pentecostal Charismatic Christianities in Oceania, Sydney, Australia, 18 Aug 2018
    • Embracing the Poor: Poverty and Disability in Oceania (2018), Society for Pentecostal Studies Annual Meeting, Cleveland, TN, 08 Mar 2018

Scholarship Publications

Journal Article

  • 2020
    • Riches, Tanya (2020). Worship Discipleship: The Art of Christian Peacemaking. Evangelical Inter Faith Dialogue (EIFD), Fall.

Book Review

  • 2019
    • Riches, T. (2019). Megachurch Christianity Reconsidered: Millennials and Social Change in African Perspective. Pneuma, Vol. 41, No. 1.

Popular Article

  • 2020
    • Riches, Tanya. (2020). The Continuing Mission of God’s Word in Song. Worship Leader Magazine, January (2020).
    • Riches, Tanya (2020). An Anchor in Uncharted Waters: Worship Leadership in a Pandemic. Worship Leader Magazine, March (2020).
  • 2016
    • Riches, Tanya and Mark Jennings. (2016). Explainer: why some churches teach that women are ‘separate but equal.’. Worship Leader Magazine, December (2016).
    • Riches, Tanya (2016). Redeeming Australia Day: How Aboriginal Christians are Challenging Australian Spirituality.. ABC Religion & Ethics, April (2016). | External link
    • Riches, T. (2016). Hiding the Truth: Honouring the Coloured Diggers - A Conversation with Ray Minniecon. ABC Religion & Ethics, . | Link to journal
    • Riches, T., Jennings, M. (2016). Explainer: why some churches teach that women are ‘separate but equal.’. The Conversation, .
    • Riches, T. (2016). Redeeming Australia Day: How Aboriginal Christians are Challenging Australian Spirituality. ABC Religion & Ethics, . | Link to journal
    • Riches, Tanya (2016). Hiding the Truth: Honouring the Coloured Diggers - A Conversation with Ray Minniecon. ABC Religion & Ethics, April (2016). | Link to journal | External link
  • 2015
    • Riches, T. (2015). Closing the Gap – Who is it really about?. , . | Link to journal
    • Riches, T. (2015). What Makes Worship Pentecostal?. Crucis, . | Link to journal
    • Riches, T. (2015). Motherhood is not the only stage where women face inequality. , . | Link to journal
    • Riches, T. (2015). Why musicians can not only hear in tune, but see in tune also (What?). , . | Link to journal
  • 2014
    • Riches, T. (2014). S&M: Can you be an intelligent feminist and attend…Hillsong Church?. , . | Link to journal
    • Riches, T. (2014). The baby vs the PhD: What will you do with your uterus?. , . | Link to journal
    • Riches, T. (2014). Why the media doesn't get Hillsong: Reflections of an Australian Pentecostal. ABC Religion & Ethics, . | Link to journal

Other Publication

  • 2018
    • Riches, T. (2018). We Have Rights You Know.
    • Riches, Tanya and Ed Phillips. (2018). Special Edition on Pentecostalism..

Professional Memberships

American Academy of Religion (AAR) (since None)

Association of Australian Mission Studies (AAMS) (since None)

North American Academy of Liturgy (NAAL) (since None)

Probationary Ministers Credential with Assemblies of God (ACC) Australia (2007-2010) (since 2021)

Society for Pentecostal Studies (SPS) (since None)

Current Supervision

  • None
    • Cassandra Webb, What is “a word”? A comparative analysis of the Ancient biblical and modern Australian Pentecostal rhetoric of words and religious communication (Masters Project/Thesis)
    • Han Shen Teo, How can vulnerability be exhibited within Asian Christian Pentecostal leadership? (Masters Project/Thesis)
    • Anna Kirkpatrick, How can ecotheology contribute to Christian vocational discipleship for millennials in the East Asian context? (Masters Project/Thesis)
    • Dorothee Kern, How can Hillsong's Youth ministries resource multicultural/international youth ministry in the International Baptist Convention (IBC) (Masters Project/Thesis)
    • Glass, J., An Examination into Koinonia in Hillsong’s Sudanese Youth Community (Masters Project/Thesis)
    • Naidoo, J., A Critical reading of Desmond Tutu’s theology of Ubuntu (Masters Project/Thesis)
    • Chan, K., The Use of Mandarin translation in Christian Congregational Music and Its Meaning within Chinese-Australian Diaspora Churches (Masters Project/Thesis)
    • Leger, E.M., Organisation Theory and Hillsong Church (Doctoral Thesis)
    • Cody Nesper, Small beginnings: How do Globalisation and indigeneity interact in the roots of local Pentecostalism? A case study of Early Pentecostal movements in Australia (Masters Project/Thesis)
    • Mendez, D., Ser Mujer’ (To be Woman)- Latina Spiritual Authority in Pentecostalism: An Ethnographic Study of the Private and Public lives of Latina-Canadian Pentecostals (Masters Project/Thesis)

Completed Supervision

  • 2019
    • Rheynita Limata, What is an effective prison Christian discipleship program (Masters Project/Thesis), 2019
  • 2018
    • Texiera, R., Unknown (Masters Project/Thesis), 2018

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