Updated: Dec 4, 2020
By Tim Redding, Music Director/Worship Coordinator
My continuing education week (June 21-26) was spent, as usual, at the Montreat Music and Worship Conference. However, this year was unprecedented: the entire conference was online, and I enjoyed it all from the laptop at my kitchen table or streamed to the television in my living room! The theme for the conference this year was “A Great Cloud of Witnesses” (appropriate!), and in worship, classes, and workshops, we celebrated the Presbyterian Association of Musicians’ 50th year of service, explored what it means to be a diverse worshiping body of Christ in all places, and found ways to expand the boundaries of new possibilities in worship.
The conference had separate “streams” occurring simultaneously throughout the day for adults, youth, and children, but we all started together with morning prayer at 9:30am. My adult track then proceeded at 10am to Worship Reflections on Monday and Wednesday (a workshop, led by conference staff, where we explored ideas for planning and implementing worship in our home congregations) and Bible study on Tuesday and Thursday (this study, led by Suzie Park, was on the “witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews 11, and closely examined their stories in the Old Testament).
At 11am, I attended choral masterclasses led by Eric Nelson. In a time when we can’t feasibly sing together in large groups, these were interesting webinars with lots of new ideas for ways to make music together. We still explored things that we would do in normal masterclasses, such as choral singing techniques and planning worship around music and liturgy.
At 11:45am, there were short “Montreat moments,” filmed at special spots on the campus (if you’ve been to Montreat, you probably remember sitting peacefully by Lake Susan and the waterfall, having ice cream on the porch at the Huckleberry, hiking up Lookout Mountain, splashing in the creek at Robert Lake Park, and lots more). I must admit, after being home for a few months, these moments spent at beloved locations in Montreat were some of my favorite parts of the conference.
My 12pm workshop was Handbell Hour with David Harris. A wide variety of handbell techniques and skills were demonstrated, we discussed how to have the most productive handbell rehearsals, and we learned ways to implement a “socially distant” handbell ensemble.
Each day at 1pm, a concert was given, highlighting the talents of conference co-directors Rich Richards and Eric Wall, and many of the other conference faculty. This was followed at 1:30pm by a favorite workshop that I attend each year: the Routley Lecture. This year’s lecture was given by Mel Bringle (among many other roles, she is an award-winning hymn-writer, and we at FPCLC have sung several of her hymns in our Glory to God hymnal). The lecture was called “Singing Here and Hereafter,” and throughout the week, we explored what the church’s song throughout the ages has taught about what happens after death. We also examined ways in which contemporary hymn-writers are shaping new texts about the hereafter in conversation with questions and issues of the here and now. This was followed by another lovely “Montreat moment.”
At 2:30pm there was a daily art workshop called “Art in the Liturgical Arc”, led by Ann Jones and Hannah Garrity. In this workshop, we explored ideas of creating collaborative visual art in and for worship, using fabrics, metals, and natural materials.
At 3:30pm, conference co-director Eric Wall had “Conversations at the Huck”: a time when he and one of the conference faculty or staff would sit on the porch at the Huckleberry, eat ice cream, and talk about ways that they have found to do new things since worship went “online.” (It’s here that I learned that I’m not the only music director who records “daily concerts” to stay connected virtually!) At 4:30pm, another choral masterclass (this one for children’s choir directors) was given by Victor Johnson, where we explored many resources and tools to work on breath control, tone, choral techniques, and more in children’s choir rehearsals.
Finally, I get a break! But not for too long: at 7:30pm, we have an organ recital on Monday, worship on Tuesday, a hymn festival on Wednesday, and worship again on Thursday. Finally, at 8:30pm, a short prayer service was offered to end the day peacefully.
This sounds just as busy as my normal Montreat schedule, right? And it was. But it was so nice to see familiar faces, explore new ideas for leading worship, and look forward to a time when we can be back at Montreat together.
Another great thing about this year’s conference being online is that the videos have been saved and curated to an online document library, and I will be able to view them throughout the year. There were also children’s classes in art and music, youth photography classes, choral and hand-bell reading sessions, and even yoga classes that I missed throughout the week, so I will be able to go back and “attend” those on my own time.
Thanks again for the opportunity to attend this impressive conference. I learned a great deal and look forward to implementing some new ideas for “socially distant” music and worship. I also look forward to attending next year’s conference!