My continuing education week (June 27 – July 2) was spent at the Montreat Music and Worship Conference. This was another unprecedented conference experience, in that it was “hybrid”: we were given the option of in-person participation or online participation. I enjoyed it all from the laptop at my kitchen table again this year but look forward to returning in person!
The theme for the conference this year was “Gathered in My Name” (“…where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” – Matthew 18:20), and in worship, classes, and seminars, we focused on six “banner days” of the liturgical year: World Communion Sunday, All Saints’ Day, Christ the King Sunday, Baptism of the Lord, Ash Wednesday, and Pentecost. Throughout the week, I was able to find many moments of inspiration, lots of creative ideas to take home, and much-needed time for sacred rest and reflection.
Those participating at the campus in North Carolina were able to choose from several classes offered throughout the day (including handbells, instrumental ensembles, a liturgy writing seminar, a conducting course, and many more). One of the drawbacks of online participation this year was that there was only one “stream” to watch on YouTube, so I had no choice of which classes to attend; however, the livestream consisted of very helpful and creative classes and seminars led by stellar faculty, so I was not disappointed.
Each day began with morning prayer at 8:30am, led by Rev. Margaret Aymer. After this, the adult choir met in Anderson Auditorium; as the singers prepared anthems for worship services under the direction of Phillip Shoultz, I didn’t have the sheet music to follow along, so this was almost like a masterclass in leading rehearsals and choral conducting. At 10am, we rejoined Rev. Margaret Aymer for a Bible study course called “How to Do Church”; these were lessons from Matthew 18 that explored five themes that strengthen our lives together as a community: welcome, self-examination, responsibility, accountability, and forgiveness.
Worship was at 11am each day. We have recently gone through the liturgical year at Montreat with the “big” seasons and days, such as Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter, so this year’s conference took us through some of the “small” festival days. Each service was meaningfully and lovingly prepared by the conference staff. One of my favorite parts of each day was listening to the sermons by Rev. Cecelia (“Pastor CeCe”) Armstrong.
After lunch, we returned to the livestream for “Worship Reflections”: a panel discussion with the conference co-directors (Tom Granum and Meg Granum Gertcheff) and all of the worship leaders. This MUSIC & WORSHIP continues… gave us a behind-the-scenes look at how the worship services were planned and implemented over three years, and how they had to be adapted due to the pandemic.
One of my favorite courses each year, the Routley Lecture, was next, and was led by Tom Trenney; this year’s lecture was called “And May God Give Us Faith to Sing Always.” Here, we reflected on the ways that music can reveal the meaning of sacred texts, and how singing together unites us in community.
My next workshop was called “Churches Don’t Get Sued for Copyright Infringement, Do They?” (funny name, but yes, they do!) In this hour we discussed the ever-changing copyright laws, with the focus of discussion being on the fair use of hard copy and digital music in rehearsals and worship services.
My last class of the day was called “Taking It to the Church,” led by Rev. Meg Flannagan, and here we discussed ways to adapt all of these “big” Montreat ideas to our smaller congregations at home. (Another workshop followed this one, led by Pastor CeCe, but it was a preaching seminar, so I did not attend.)
OK, time for a break! But not for too long, because at 7:30pm, we had an organ recital with service organist Patrick Scott on Monday, a conversation with conference artist Rev. Lauren Pittman on Tuesday, the annual hymn festival on Wednesday (another favorite of mine), the chamber choir concert on Thursday, and the conference closing concert on Friday. Fifteen minutes after each evening’s 7:30 event, a short prayer service was offered to end the day peacefully.
This sounds just as busy as my normal Montreat schedule, and it was. But it was so nice to see some friends (even if only online) that I have made over the years of attending this conference, to explore new ideas for leading worship, and to anticipate next year, when I can return in person. (Also, all the videos from the 2021 conference have been saved and curated to an online document library, and I will be able to view them throughout the year, so I look forward to watching some highlights.)
Thanks again for the opportunity to attend this impressive conference. I learned a great deal and look forward to implementing some new ideas for music and worship here at FPCLC. This conference is not just for music directors, so I hope that maybe some of you would like to join me for a week of music and worship in 2022!
By Tim Redding, Music Director / Worship Coordinator