August 7, 2008

Mission in Worship: National Worship Conference 2008

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:59 pm by elcic2

Was it Order or Chaos? Those amazing three days in Montreal at the end of June! Was it world-renowned liturgical theologian Gordon Lathrop’s talk of the mischief that happens in our Order? Or other keynote speaker Karen Ward’s mention of letting the worship emerge from the assembly that was Order & Chaos? Or, waking up at 7:30 a.m. Saturday morning to the People’s Gospel Choir of Montreal proclaiming Resurrection from out of the tombstones on Mount Royal? Chaos when your tired bones lift up to go tell it on the mountain in a power prayer breakfast. Or is prayer Order? What about getting out of one city and travelling to 400 year old Quebec City? In Quebec it was the chaos of language and the order of the Word. Perhaps the surest thing was participants sharing images and words around the font at the closing worship. And where in the heat of summer, did snow cones at registration fit the Order of Anglicans and Lutherans gathering to experience new dimensions in worship?

Three days, June 25-28, that began on Wed. evening, outdoors in Wallenberg Square in the heart of downtown Montreal. Gathering in-between the neo-gothic Anglican Cathedral and a soaring office tower while standing overtop underground shopping, over 200 persons began a liturgy to open a conference juxtaposing Order & Chaos. Beginning on one side of the Square, at the Memorial to Raoul Wallenberg (the Swede who worked to protect thousands of Jews from German extermination) order and chaos were turned inside out. The Gathering Rite played with a well-ordered system for the transport, cataloguing and extermination of Jews juxtaposed to the chaos of the effort to protect and free them. Getting in to the theme: order is now evil and chaos is good. Worshippers were numbered off, addressed through megaphones, and reminded that the juxtaposition of order and chaos continues in many places today. From being numbered and segregated, it was a procession to the fountain on the other side of the square that brought them to a new place. The grace of being able to wash off the numbers and become one community. Now a people leaving the square, crossing the river, walking down the city street and around to enter the cathedral. But the Order of the neo-gothic was troubled by a setting of the liturgy that pitted Latin polyphonic chant against a mechanical, taped soundtrack of industry, war, TV-news, and sounds from creation. Now we were into the conference and the juxtapositions, tensions, and celebrations of Order & Chaos. Just to make it real, after the liturgy, it was back to the square for wine and a reception. And so it all began.

Plenaries, workshops, and exceptional experiences. These were the hallmarks of Anglicans and Lutherans gathering for Worship Conference 2008. It was the liturgy of the cosmos engaging the liturgy of our chaotic lives. The order imposed by the organisers and the chaos of 125 registered participants from across Canada and as far away as Texas. Plenaries that were loaded with information and alive with radical configurations of a worshipping assembly. Workshops that were skill specific and those that offered something sensual and filled with heart: Music, trends in worship, pilgrimage, architecture, contemplation, dance, and a chance to explore the theme in depth. And all of it very environmentally conscious. The organising committee got rid of everything from individual sugar packets and creamers to worship booklets and excess paper, but gave away water bottles, coffee mugs, and cloth breakfast bags (with the bagels wrapped in wax paper). Of course, the coffee was fair-trade and organic!

There was the Friday in Quebec City. Morning Prayer on the bus and a warm welcome upon arrival at the historic Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (Anglican) in the heart of old Quebec. History, touring, an insider look at several historic churches, another plenary and then a liturgy beginning in the courtyard of the cathedral. This time the order of the Word and the chaos of the Word. “In the beginning….” And from there the experience of Logos. Not to mention an evening of relaxed socialising in the gardens of one of Quebec’s most historic venues.

Included at each Worship Conference is the conferral of the Lutheran Companion of the Worship Arts. At the Closing Worship, the Revd Karen Johnson-Lefsrud was made a companion. The very simple final liturgy with Taizé chant, dispersed the conference attendees into the world of Order & Chaos, but hopefully tuned to the divine Order and divine Chaos present at all times and in all places.

Going out into the world meant an opportunity to bring the order of love into the chaos of the streets and the homeless. Saturday evening the Sandwich Ministry from St. John’s invited conference participants to gather for making sandwiches and coffee and then distributing them to the homeless in downtown Montreal. Was this the Word becoming flesh or another commemoration of Wallenberg? There was great participation on this servant event.

The ELCIC Programme Committee for Worship and co-chairs Eric Dyck and Peter Wall thank the many sponsors and donors, especially Faithlife Financial for covering the costs for Gordon Lathrop. Special thanks for the support of the Eastern Synod and the Anglican Dioceses of Montreal and Québec.

See you 2010 in Vancouver!

– Rev. Eric Dyck

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