Returning from the National Worship Conference, which brought more than 200 Anglicans and Lutherans together from July 20 to 23 in Edmonton, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said he thought it was “a sign of health” for the two churches.
“You’ve got over 200 people from both churches who are really committed to good liturgy-liturgy that equips the people of God, inspires them for their work in the service of God’s mission. That’s good news,” Hiltz said.
“Much of the teaching…was setting liturgy in the context of mission, which of course, in both our churches there’s been a renewed focus on,” he added, noting that the address from keynote speaker Ruth Meyers, chair of The Episcopal Church’s standing commission on liturgy and music, made a beautiful point about liturgy and mission running together inseparably and continually, like a Mobius strip. The theme of the conference was “Weaving Strands: Liturgy for Living.”
Hiltz observed that even though it was the 10th anniversary of Anglican participation in the biennial event, which Lutherans created about 20 years ago, this year was the first time there was equal participation from both churches. “There was a good feeling about that…It’s really planned in the spirit of full communion, not just one church hosting a conference and welcoming another church,” he said. National Bishop Susan Johnson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) also participated in the conference, along with Bishop Larry Kochendorfer of the ELCIC’s Synod of Alberta and the Territories, and Bishop Jane Alexander of the Anglican diocese of Edmonton.
Maylanne Maybee, principal of the Centre for Christian Studies in Winnipeg, wrote in an email to the Journal that she appreciated the variety of workshops. “The ones I enjoyed were Bernadette Gasslein on consumerism and the conversion of desire- very thought provoking!” She added that “Worship at the Margins” with Rick Chapman, Scott Sharm and Laureen Wray (who spoke about street ministry, campus ministry and outdoor ministry, respectively) was “a concrete exploration of a topic (mission and liturgy) that was at risk of becoming abstract and rarefied.”
Eileen Scully, director of the faith, worship and ministry department of the Anglican Church of Canada, who offered one of the workshops, told the Journal that she was pleased that although “not everybody agreed with everything that was said in addresses and workshops…all said they had learned very much from the exchanges.”
Music was central throughout the conference. In his blog posts on the conference’s Facebook page, Archdeacon Jacques deGuise Vaillancourt from the Anglican diocese of Edmonton wrote that “At All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral, a mixed church, pick-up choir, under the direction of a Lutheran musical virtuoso [keynote speaker David Cherwien], performed a festival of sacred music. This event took us on a pilgrimage fuelled by the dynamic interplay of inspired European classically styled (original) compositions to music grounded in the fertile soil of Africa and selections with a South American beat, sourced in the passionate, hot-blooded Latin faith tradition.”
Hiltz said he appreciated discussions about the role of visual signs, symbols and touch in liturgy. “We tend to be very wordy as Anglicans and Lutherans in our liturgy…there’s a real place for sign and symbol and allowing them to speak to the people.” The opening eucharist provided an example, with the participation of a liturgical dancer who, Hiltz said, took long ribbons of cloth to people in the congregation. “As the offertory hymn was being sung, she literally wove the three of them into one chord, and when she finished she picked it up and laid it across the front of the altar…it was absolutely amazing.”
A focus on revaluing the place of silence in liturgy and on “recovering that as a powerful medium in which people are given a chance to ponder what they’ve just heard or what they’ve just said” was another highlight, the primate mentioned.
At each conference, a Companion of the Worship Arts Award is presented. This year, Dr. Joy Berg, associate professor of music and program co-ordinator at Concordia University College of Alberta, was honoured. And for the first time, an Anglican was also a recipient. The Rev. Canon Dr. Graham Cotter was recognized for “a lifetime of contributions to the Anglican Church of Canada,” which include producing liturgical dramas, liturgical dance and collaborating in the creation of a major altarpiece, vestments and labyrinths. In 1994, Cotter and his wife donated seed money for the Sacred Arts Trust, an endowment that provides financial support for creative liturgical expression and is administered by the Anglican Foundation.