Liturgy, Formation, Mission and Art: A Conference

“Liturgy is not play acting, but [rather] the evocation of an alternate reality that comes into play in the very moment of the liturgy.” -- Walter Brueggeman, The Message of the Psalms

I'm very excited to announce a conference taking place in Durham, NC, on November 8-10. While its primary target audience is Anglicans and Episcopalians, the topic of the conference does not, to my mind, exclude others, whether high-church Reformed or traditional Catholic, liturgical-charismatic or Oxford Methodists, or anybody else who might want to join in.

What occasions this conference? 
The first thing that occasions this conference is a concern over the way in which the Anglican liturgy is often (mis)perceived along with the role of the arts in it.

The liturgy, as the case may be, is perceived as stuffy, archaic, formalistic, benumbing, insensitive to the requirements of contextualization and therefore both unintelligible and irrelevant to your average western citizen. It is opposed to spontaneity. It is ritualistic rather than personal. It occludes the gospel rather than illumines it. And if art appears in the liturgy, it is of the safe or stiffly traditional type.

My response to that perception? Yep. You're right. It can be and has been all of those things at some point or another, and possibly worse.

But it needn't be. Form need not be pitted against freedom, nor tradition against innovation. In fact the form of the "classical Christian liturgy," at its very best, is a refreshingly freeing thing. And because it's an organic rather than a mechanical thing, it "lives" and is able to respond supplely to the contingencies of time and space--indeed across time and space.

What about art in the liturgy?  While I may not represent the majority on this point, I believe all the arts can fittingly serve the different actions of the liturgy. I believe this is possible in such a way that our experience of the gospel expands rather than diminishes. I believe that this kind of experience of the arts can intensify and deepen our worship rather than distract or merely titillate our encounter of the triune God in the liturgy.

The second thing that occasions this conference? A confidence that the classical or traditional form of the liturgy and the role which the arts can play in it have much to offer contemporary Christians. It is a confidence that believes the Anglican liturgy is good for us, and good not just for us but also for our neighbors, whether they are of the nominal or irreligious kind.

Joining forces
Quite a number of exciting conversations along these lines are afoot (here, for example) and this conference is simply another effort to add clarity to one part of this conversation and to inspire folks with a hopeful vision of what could be.

I've included here a summary of the conference along with links to Anglican 1000, our primary host, where you can get registered for the event and, eventually, find a longer explanation of the talks, workshops, travel, etc.

Intended Audience: pastors, priests, ministry leaders, church planters, music leaders, liturgists and artists of all types. And students are most welcome to join us too.

Overall Goal: to equip us with an understanding of the formative power of the Anglican liturgy and so to bring to light the possibilities of its doxological, theological, ethical, missional and artistic beauty.

The Four Plenary Talks that frame the conference: 

1. “The Compelling Logic of Anglican Liturgy”: The Rev. Dr. Sam Wells, Dean of Duke Chapel and Research Professor of Christian Ethics, Duke Divinity School

2. “Liturgy as a Counterforce to the Prevailing Cultures”: Mark Galli, Senior Editor, Christianity Today

3. “Liturgy, Music and 'Participation'”: Dr. Lester Ruth, Research Professor of Christian Worship, Duke Divinity School

4. “The Visual Power of the Liturgy”: David Taylor, Candidate for Doctor of Theology, Duke Divinity School (editor of For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts)

Other details
The conference will include three workshop sessions, Q&A following each plenary talk, two meals so that we can share significant time together, lots of white space and, best of all, four worship services--Compline, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Morning Prayer with Eucharist. Each worship service will be led by a different team and will allow us to practice what we're hearing and saying.

The contestedness of "togetherness"
While I'm excited about the whole conference, I'm especially keen to hear Lester Ruth's talk. In it he will consider how the different kinds of music which occur in the liturgy—from congregational singing to instrumental music, from “service” music to choral song, and possibly even "singing in the Spirit"—form us. In particular he'll look at the ways in which these musical forms enhance rather than foil our experience of “togetherness” in worship.

General cost of the conference $99, but for students, artists and church planters the cost is $49.

Video Invite
Here is a video invitation that Father Steve Breedlove and I shot on July 14. (My forehead is wrinkled half the time because of a wicked sun that kept bearing down on us.)


If you know anybody who might be interested in joining us, please pass along word of this event. Thanks so much!

(And thanks to Erik Newby for the excellent poster design. And thanks to Daniel Adkinson, fearless director of Anglican 1000, for his good partnership.)


Anonymous said…
Dude! You totally interrupted Steve at the end!!! HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!
Nice job, though. I'm pumped!
SO. EXCITING! way to go, yet again, D.T. and co.
Ben, what are you talking about? I had a giant paragraph that I was unleashing and Steve swerved into the middle of it. :)

Tamara: coooooooooooome (especially now that you're in the fold).
Anonymous said…
First of all, Steve Breedlove and my dad grew up together in Tyler, TX. Random connection #1. Second, Brian and I have gotten involved in an Anglican church plant here in the Seattle area, coached by Father Aaron Burt from COTA in SC. There's another possible connection there that I won't mention yet. :) The conference sounds very interesting!
Kit said…
Ben, I love you, but I'm with David on this one. Steve definitely interrupted our friend D. Orlando Taylor.
Katy: as the Brits might say, "Wicked." And totally fun too. And I'm anxious to hear the mysterious third connection.

Kristin: thanks for the shout-out!
This sounds wonderful! I look forward to attending!

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