Upcoming conferences

I’ll be attending the first two, intermittently working the Daily Prayer Project table at Calvin. If you’re there, be sure to say hello!

Calvin Symposium on Worship
Date: February 8–10, 2023
Location: Calvin University, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Cost: $180 (or $25 for students and faculty of any school)
Organizers: Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and the Center for Excellence in Preaching
Presenters: James Abbington, Latifah Alattas, Jeremy Begbie, Carlos Colón, Justin Giboney, Wendell Kimbrough, Te-Li Lau, Karin Maag, Debra Rienstra, W. David O. Taylor, and many more
Description: “The Calvin Symposium on Worship is an annual conference (since 1988) that brings together people from many different denominations and traditions, from a variety of roles in worship and leadership, including pastors, worship planners and leaders, musicians, scholars, students, worship bands and teams, organists, visual artists, preachers, chaplains, missionaries, liturgists, council and session leaders, and more; and encourages leaders in churches and worshiping communities of all sizes and settings.” This year’s theme is Paul’s letter to the Colossians.

Ordinary Saints Conference

Ordinary Saints—Creativity, Community, and Collaboration
Date: February 17–18, 2023
Location: The Trust Performing Arts Center, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Cost: $210
Organizer: Square Halo Books
Presenters: Malcolm Guite and Elissa Yukiko Weichbrodt (keynotes)
Description: Celebrating Square Halo’s twenty-fifth year publishing “extraordinary books for ordinary saints,” as its tagline reads. Coincides with the release of Ordinary Saints: Living Everyday Life to the Glory of God, an anthology of essays by forty-plus writers on such topics as knitting, home repair, juggling, traffic, pipes, chronic pain, pretzels, and naps. Art historian Elissa Yukiko Weichbrodt, author of the forthcoming Redeeming Vision: A Christian Guide to Looking at and Learning from Art, will be speaking on “Corporeality and Modern Art in Dialogue” and will participate in a panel discussion with Ed Knippers and Ned Bustard, and poet Malcolm Guite will be giving several talks. There will also be breakout sessions led by a range of guests, a pop-up printmaking studio, songwriting roundtables, a performance by Reverie Actor’s Company, and a concert by The Arcadian Wild.

Society for Christian Scholarship in Music (SCSM) Annual Meeting
Date: March 2–4, 2023
Location: Duke Divinity School, Durham, North Carolina
Cost: $100–$150
Organizer: Society for Christian Scholarship in Music
Presenters: Luke Powery (keynote) and others
Description: The Rev. Dr. Luke A. Powery, dean of Duke Chapel and associate professor of homiletics at Duke Divinity School whose publications include devotionals based on the African American spirituals, will offer the keynote address. The conference will also include twenty-three research paper presentations, panel sessions, a lecture recital, a choral concert, and more. Full details will be published soon on the SCSM website.

Art, the Sacred, and the Common Good: Renewing Culture through Beauty, Education, and Worship
Date: April 21–22, 2023
Location: Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, New Jersey
Cost: Free
Organizer: Scala Foundation
Presenters: Aidan Hart, Jonathan Pageau, Anna Bond, Peter Carter, David Clayton, Margarita Mooney Clayton, Paul Coyer, Robert Jackson, and RJ Snell
Description: “The modern myth that beauty emerges from the subconscious of a self-seeking creative genius goes against the traditional understanding that beauty emerges from a living tradition under the inspiration of God. For example, C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien met regularly in Oxford’s pubs to discuss their writing and their faith. In the early 20th century, Russian exiles in Paris formed a community focused on the re-establishment of the great tradition of iconography so central to Christian worship. Composers like Handel and Mozart created beautiful music accessible to all people that directed listeners to the transcendent.
        Conversations and community among creators and thinkers have always been essential to shaping culture. These eminently human moments—and the friendships they inspire—must be cultivated if we are to illuminate America’s darkening culture and society.
        “American culture is in rapid collapse in large part because of an abandonment of beauty in education and worship. The Scala Foundation’s 2023 conference on art, the sacred, and the common good grows out of its deep work around Princeton to bring together artists, students, teachers, and scholars. In a world increasingly hostile to the idea that beauty is anything more than self-aggrandizement or yet one more tool of oppression, this event offers the warmth of community to anyone who is passionate to restore the connections between beauty and truth and between reason and creativity.”

Hutchmoot UK (*open to UK residents only)
Date: May 18–21, 2023
Location: Hayes Conference Center, Swanwick, Derbyshire
Cost: £365 (all-inclusive)
Organizer: The Rabbit Room
Description: A weekend of live music, delicious food, conversation, and a series of discussions centered on art, faith, and the telling of great stories across a range of mediums.

Roundup: Lessons & Carols, new Advent/Christmas albums, Advent Art Salon

N.B.: Upcoming dates:

  • December 4: “For God So Loved the Cosmos: A Service of Lessons and Carols,” Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • December 11: “A Dawning Light” service, Grace Mosaic, Washington, DC
  • December 14: (Virtual) Advent Art Salon, organized by Image journal

More info below!

STORY & SONG SERVICES:

>> “A Dawning Light,” Grace Mosaic, Washington, DC: On December 12 last year, I attended Grace Mosaic’s fourth annual “Dawning Light” service, an evening of Advent and Christmas gospel music and scripture readings. It was wonderful, progressing from darkness to light together, feeling collectively our longing and our joy. The service was organized by the church’s pastor of worship and formation, Joel Littlepage, who’s at the keys. The song list is below. My favorite is probably the “Emmanuel” medley around fifty-two minutes in, or the medley that follows.

  • Processional: “Wait for the Lord” by Jacques Berthier, Taizé Community
  • 9:06: “The Truth Sent from Above,” traditional English carol with music by Joel Littlepage
  • 15:50: “Come, O Redeemer, Come” by Fernando Ortega
  • 19:14: “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” arr. Kimberly Williams | Soloist: Kimberly Williams
  • 26:17: “Tenemos Esperanza” by Federico J. Pagura (words) and Homero R. Perera (music), Argentina | Soloist: Melissa Littlepage
  • 35:51: “Lift Up Your Voices” by Nikki Grier, as performed by the Sunday Service Choir
  • 44:10: “O Holy Night” by Adolphe Charles Adam, Placide Cappeau, John S. Dwight, arr. Kimberly Williams | Soloist: Kimberly Williams
  • 52:13: “Emmanuel” by Solly Mahlangu, South Africa, sung in Sotho
  • 55:10: “Emmanuel” by Norman Hutchins | Soloist: Russ Whitfield
  • 59:20: “Christmas Worship Medley” (“Alpha and Omega,” “Be Unto Your Name,” “Magnificent and Holy,” “The Almighty Reigns”), as performed by Israel Houghton, arr. Dan Galbraith
  • 1:15:10: “Jesus Is the Reason” by Kirk Franklin
  • 1:20:19: “Joy to the World” by Isaac Watts (words) and George Frideric Handel (music) (congregational hymn)
  • 1:23:24: Recessional: “Joy to the World” (instrumental)

This year’s “Dawning Light” service will be held December 11 at 5:30 p.m. at Grace Mosaic in Northeast Washington, DC. A catered reception will follow. RSVP here.

>> “For God So Loved the Cosmos: A Service of Lessons and Carols,” December 4, 2022, LaGrave Avenue Christian Reformed Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan: This Sunday at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Eastern, the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship is holding a Lessons & Carols service (in-person and livestreamed) celebrating the Bible’s all-creation vision of redemption. The program is posted, and it looks great! If you’re remote, you can tune in on YouTube.

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2021 ADVENT ART SALON: Organized by Image journal, this virtual hour-long salon took place on December 14, 2021. The two highlights for me are Christopher J. Domig’s performance of the Shepherd’s monologue from “The Birth” by Frederick Buechner (12:54–18:33), in Secrets in the Dark: A Life in Sermons, and the Rev. Dr. Lauren Winner’s reflection on Mary’s pregnancy (43:44–49:26), in which she shares, in addition to two images, an unusual Advent practice she follows, recommended to her by a Baptist pastor who is also a doula!

Leininger, Lorie_Infinite Riches in a Little Room
Lorie Dodge Leininger (American, 1926–2016), Infinite Riches in a Little Room, 1968. Woodblock print, 14 × 11 1/2 in.

Image is hosting another virtual Advent Art Salon this year on December 14 at 5 p.m. Eastern (2 p.m. Pacific). It will feature an Advent meditation by Amy Peterson, poetry readings by Karen An-hwei Lee and Jonathan Chan, a performance of Annie Dillard’s “God in the Doorway” by Rachel Ingram, a musical performance by Eric Marshall of Young Oceans (who is on my Advent playlist!), and a reading on feasting by Kendall Vanderslice. View more info here, and register here.

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NEW ADVENT/CHRISTMAS ALBUMS: All three of these are available on Spotify andother streaming services.

>> We Wait: Advent and Christmas, vol. 2 by The Many: An EP of two traditional songs and two originals by The Many, an intentionally diverse collective gathered around their “shared love of music and commitment to honest expressions of faith, peace-making, economic and racial justice, and LGBTQ+ inclusion.” They draw on indie-pop and gospel influences.

>> The Soil and The Seed Project, vol. 5: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany: The Soil and The Seed Project is a liturgical collective based in Harrisonburg, Virginia, writing music and at-home liturgies structured around the church year. They’ve just released their fifth collection, available for free through their website. The music portion includes, among other songs, retunes of a few traditional Advent hymns; the electro-hop “Restore Us,” a lament by Greg Yoder; a setting of the Beatitudes; and a setting of Psalm 96:1–2 in its original Hebrew by the late Rev. Dr. Anil Solanki, a former seminary professor of TSATSP director Seth Crissman’s (Crissman said Professor Solanki would often open his Hebrew exegesis classes by leading students in this song).

>> Christmas Hymns by Paul Zach: Four originals and twelve traditionals from one of my favorite sacred singer-songwriters. Most are for Christmas, but a few are more Advent-y. Taylor Leonhardt, Lauren Plank Goans, Keiko Ying, and Noah Zach provide supporting vocals. [Apple Music]

Advent, Day 6

LOOK: Cathedral by Bryn Gillette

Gillette, Bryn_Beyond the Ruins (Cathedral)
Bryn Gillette (American, 1980–), Cathedral, 2010–11, from the Beyond the Ruins series. Oil and glass shards on wooden door, 80 × 32 in. (203.2 × 81.3 cm). [available as a giclée print]

In 2000 while on a ministry trip to Jamaica, artist Bryn Gillette met Daniel Jean from Haiti, who was finishing up his Bible degree there while caring for five orphaned children. After Jean graduated he returned to Haiti and became a pastor and, over the next several years, continued taking in a growing number of children—ten, twenty-one, sixty-five!—from off the streets, giving them, through the help of his church community, food, shelter, medical care, education, love, and a sense of home.

While a large number of Haiti’s estimated 1.2 million orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) have lost parents to natural disaster, disease, gang violence, or political turmoil, most are what are called “social orphans,” meaning they have one or more living parents but that parent is unable to provide for them, usually because of poverty or drug addiction, and they are forced to fend for themselves. Some of these children are abandoned out of painful necessity; others, out of neglect. Jean was himself orphaned by poverty as a child, so he has an enormous amount of empathy for those in the same situation.

Having kept up a regular correspondence with Jean ever since their initial meeting, Gillette took his first trip to Haiti in 2008, to visit Jean and to meet the very large family he had built! Later that year he and his father, Mark Gillette, founded the nonprofit TeamOne:27 to support Jean’s work. Since then Jean’s family has grown to include more than two hundred kids in three “homes of blessing”—two in Port-au-Prince and one in Les Cayes, near where the magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck this August. The Gillettes describe Daniel Jean as a modern-day George Müller

Bryn Gillette has since returned to Haiti seven more times and considers himself an “artistic ambassador” for the country. Cathedral is part of his twelve-piece Beyond the Ruins series of paintings, made in the aftermath of the catastrophic January 12, 2010, earthquake that struck just outside the capital of Port-au-Prince, killing tens of thousands of Haitians. Each painting was executed on a standard-size door, metaphoric of the aspiration that Haiti will emerge stronger on the other side of this tragedy—that it will pass “beyond the ruins.”

Gillette began painting Cathedral in July 2010, when he was first able to visit the ruins of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de L’Assomption in Port-au-Prince. “At that time the property was gated and uncleared of the rubble and deceased,” he said.

Gillette, Bryn_Cathedral (detail)
Detail

He returned in summer 2011, at which point he was able to go inside the shell of the church.

I spent much of my time sorting through the small piles of remaining debris and collecting discarded “treasures” of the stained glass windows. It became a game to the local children, who sent me home with a pile of several pounds of glass. I vowed to myself to honor these sacred shards somehow in a work that would be a worthy tribute to these precious and grieving Haitians. I embedded shards and crushed fragments of the Cathedral’s glass into the painting itself, praying over Haiti with what I might describe as a weeping hope.

While he was there he saw a young girl lingering in the doorway, standing on the wreckage and staring out over the cityscape. In the painting, Gillette said, she represents on one level a personified Haiti, vulnerable and grieving and interceding for her people. Hear more from the artist on this painting in this 2019 video:

After eleven years, Notre-Dame Cathedral has still not been rebuilt, though donations have enabled the erection of a transitional 1,500-seat structure on the site, where Masses are celebrated. Its ruins, especially its shattered rose window, are now a distinguishing feature of the Port-au-Prince skyline.

Lament and hope are key elements of Gillette’s Beyond the Ruins series as a whole, as he elaborates:

During the years I worked on these images, the painting process distilled countless hours of conversation, travel, prayer, heartache, and hope into color and form. These door-size portals are our declarations of hope, our inner groaning for justice made visible, a plea for God’s Spirit to renew Haiti’s destiny. . . . It is my hope that this work be a catalyst for Kingdom scale conversations, dreams, prayers, relationships, and initiatives.

Cathedral speaks powerfully of one of the main themes of Advent: mourning the brokenness (of our bodies, spirits, families, cities, governments, earth, etc.) while awaiting the coming of a new day. And even as we wait, we work—we (re)build, we mend. We keep our hands to the plow. We sow weeping.

“I feel like I am often praying in imagery rather than words,” Gillette says. Though I am viewer, not maker, I often feel the same—that my consideration of a particular image is my prayer. I’m thankful to artists who are able to express these “prayers” so eloquently and who put them out into the world so that we, too, can lift them up to God.

LISTEN: “Jesucristo, esperanza del mundo” (Jesus Christ, Hope of the World) | Words by Silvio Meincke, 1982; trans. Pablo D. Sosa, 1988 | Music by João Carlos Gottinari and Edmundo Reinhardt, 1982; arr. Greg Scheer, 1994 | Performed by Calvin University’s Capella, 2021

This video features a Spanish-English version of a twentieth-century Portuguese-language hymn from Brazil, which is #248 in the bilingual hymnal Santo, Santo, Santo: Cantos para el pueblo de Dios / Holy, Holy, Holy: Songs for the People of God. Here are the full lyrics in English:

A little beyond this our time
The future announces with gladness
No war, no disaster, no crime
No more desolation, no sadness

Lord, may your kingdom come
The joy of our world re-create
And all our hope and our longings
Transform in the fullness of life
Aié, eiá, aié, aié, aié

A bud of your hope is sprouting
The token of flowers in spring
A world to arrive, no doubting
With justice and joy that you bring

We hope to cast out all our hate
We long for a world of pure beauty
In which peace will never abate
And justice will be, then, our duty

The seeds of your kingdom we bear
Your future is drawing so near
The earth with your help we prepare
Until you, in fullness, appear

I’m aware that Spanish is not an official language of Haiti, but I’m always bringing art from different cultures into contact with one another, as I like to reveal points of connection across contexts. In addition to the obvious connections between today’s featured hymn and painting, consider the small but meaningful resonance between the line “A bud of your hope is sprouting” and artist Bryn Gillette’s description of the umbrellas on the Rue St Laurent opening like flowers.

Calvin Symposium on Worship 2021

The mission of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship is to “promote the scholarly study of the theology, history, and practice of Christian worship and the renewal of worship in worshiping communities across North America and beyond.” Their programming centers on resources, grants, and events—the biggest of which is the annual Calvin Symposium on Worship, held in January at Calvin University. This year this enormous gathering of pastors, worship leaders and planners, artists, musicians, scholars, students, and others has moved online—and it’s all free! Click here to register and to gain access to a bevy of wonderful content.

Online Calvin Symposium on Worship 2021 opened January 6 and is running through January 26, and much of the content will be archived for future on-demand viewing. With more than ninety contributors, it comprises twenty livestreamed worship services from around the world, twenty livestreamed sessions (some interactive), audio and video talks and interviews, panel discussions, chapter downloads, a compilation of Psalms-based music and art, and expert-guided discussion boards on technology for worshipping communities, Christian history, and pastoral and self-care lessons from 2020.

Calvin Symposium on Worship 2021

I’ve only just dipped my toes in so far, and have a lot more to explore. A few items I’m looking at are Catherine Gunsalus González, Justo González, and David Rylaarsdam on “Learning about Worship from the Ancient Church”; Katharine Hayhoe on how worship practices can help heal our broken relationship with the more-than-human creation; and Mary Hulst, Glenn Packiam, and Joni Sancken on preaching and singing the resurrection (Jesus’s and our own) with care, including at funerals.

I’m also looking at the symposium’s many offerings on multiculturalism and racial justice, such as “Leadership for a Multicultural Age” with Juana Bordas, “Celebrating Christianity’s Global Identity” with Vince Bantu, “Faithful Anti-Racism and the Christian Life” with Christina Edmondson, “What Is the Color of Compromise?” with Jemar Tisby, racial justice and reconciliation work in Richmond, Virginia (documentary and Q&A), Justo González on how Saint Augustine’s mestizo identity (his mother was African, his father Roman) influenced his life and theology, and minister and youth advocate Khristi Lauren Adams on her new book, Parable of the Brown Girl: The Sacred Lives of Girls of Color.

I’ve really been enjoying the worship services, which are hosted by churches and institutions not just throughout the US but also in Buenos Aires, Dublin, Beirut, Cairo, Hong Kong, Singapore, and several cities in Brazil.

A bilingual service led by Constanza Bongarrá and Marcelo Villanueva, Worship with Seminario Internacional Teológico Bautista in Buenos Aires [previously] premiered January 11. The six songs, performed by a small group of supertalented musicians, represent different styles/genres originating in or developed in Argentina—tango, cueca, huayno. A full list of participants and music credits is available at the link.

  • 4:56: “Veni, Emanuel” (O Come, O Come, Emmanuel)
  • 8:06: “Hemos venido” (We’ve Come)
  • 17:58: “Este es el día” (This Is the Day)
  • 21:01: “Tenemos esperanza” (We Have Hope) [previously]
  • 26:56: “Vencerá el amor” (Love Shall Overcome)
  • 29:33: “El cielo canta alegría” (Heaven Is Singing for Joy)

The Rev. Rob Jones from Ireland preaches on Romans 12 in Worship at Holy Trinity Rathmines Church, Dublin, and Discovery Gospel Choir performs three songs.

  • 5:32: “O Nzambi” (O Lord) (from the Democratic Republic of Congo, in Kongo)
  • 36:00: “Uthando Luka Baba” (The Love of the Father) (from Zimbabwe/South Africa, in Ndebele/Xhosa)
  • 48:18: “Alleluia” (from Mauritius, in Creole)

What a joy to be introduced to Ireland’s leading multicultural choir! Discovery Gospel Choir was formed in 2004 by the Church of Ireland to reflect the country’s (and the church’s) ethnic and linguistic diversity. Its motto is taken from Romans 12:17b (MSG): “Discover beauty in everyone.” The songs here, and more, can be found on the choir’s 2015 album, Look Up. I especially loved “Uthando Luka Baba” (that solo!).

There’s also a lot of music (and some visual art and dance) in the “Global Psalm Gallery,” made up of submissions from the public.

Josh Rodriguez [previously] submitted an original cello composition that’s just gorgeous. It’s movement 1 (“Oh Lord, Our Lord”) from his “Meditations on Psalm VIII,” based on a tune by Louis Bourgeois from the Genevan Psalter (1542) and performed here by Robert Nicholson. The boldface link includes a score, a reflection by Rodriguez on how the piece interprets Psalm 8, and liturgical suggestions.

Another standout in the gallery is “Psalm 150” for unaccompanied flute, by Delvyn Case, which “explores the mystical connection between breath, life, music, and praise as described in the psalm.” Wow!

Not all the submissions are instrumental art music; there’s also congregational songs, choral pieces, etc.

Again, here’s the sign-up link to the symposium: https://worship.calvin.edu/symposium/. And in addition to this year’s new content, the CICW has an enormous archive of resources from past years that is definitely worth checking out, especially if you are a church leader, of worship or otherwise.