2015 | From Generation to Generation
Time brings change to every person and community. In the midst of time’s flux, every Christian congregation proclaims the gospel, offering good news to the children and youth of its own household and beyond, as well as to those who are growing old. In a society where persons are often segregated by age, congregations are, remarkably, communities where old, middling, and young share life together. At the same time, many wonder whether aging congregations will indeed be able to see the faith transmitted to new generations. This theme invites congregations to explore how worship, music, and the arts embody the psalmist’s hope: “from generation to generation we will recount God’s praise” (79:13).
In a culture where different age cohorts reportedly understand themselves and their world in markedly divergent ways, how do worship, music, and the arts help people of different generations to hear the gospel, and how might they do so more fully? How does, and how might, this happen both within congregations and through outreach?
Further, the lives of Christian people are formed by how the church frames the milestones that mark individual journeys through time, such as birth, maturation, marital commitment, and death. How do worship, music, and the arts enable persons and communities to embrace life passages as opportunities to receive and respond to the grace of God, and how might they do so more fully?
2014 | The Human Body and the Body of Christ
2013 | Hark, the Glad Sound: Inviting New and Returning Christians to Worship
Reaching out with the Gospel to those who are not active members is a concern all Christian congregations share, even though they often use different words to describe it (evangelism, outreach, mission, church growth, hospitality). Throughout Christian history, creativity in music and the arts has played a crucial role in opening Christian worship to new or returning participants. Through the crèche of Saint Francis, the hymns of Wesley and Watts, the architecture of the Los Angeles Cathedral, and countless other projects, church leaders have developed fresh liturgical and artistic forms that speak powerfully to their contemporaries in the midst of changing contexts. Doing so requires theological discernment, cultural sensitivity, strategic savvy, and confidence in the grace of God. Today many strong congregations are working to develop creative approaches to outreach. The 2013 summer seminar will gather teams of leaders from such congregations. For their own mutual learning and for the sake of other congregations who yearn for insight, we shall ask how contemporary congregations are reaching out to proclaim the Gospel in a society undergoing massive change in technology, religious belonging, generational division, and other aspects of social organization, and also how they might do so more fully. How can and do congregations reach out to groups who are underrepresented within the congregation (for example, young adults, non-English speakers, families with young children, those with disabilities, artists)? How might they assess and negotiate the hold of tradition and the allure of the new in worship, music, and the arts? How should they think theologically, as congregations, about the relationships between the language, sounds, and images of Christian worship and those of popular culture?
2012 | Keeping Time/Life Passages
Time, like an ever-rolling stream, soon bears us all away,” we sing with Isaac Watts. How does a congregation worship God from the midst of the days, weeks, years, and stages of life that shape its experience of time? How do, and how might, the worship, the music, and the other artistic expressions of the church—which are themselves fleeting and temporal—help contemporary people find abundant life within time’s ever-rolling stream?
These perennial questions have special saliency in our 24/7 society, where many people are at a loss for both time and wisdom about time. Christian worship is deeply formed by patterns that give shape to time—Sundays, seasons, hours of prayer. Further, the lives of Christian people are formed by the church’s framing of such temporal passages as birth, maturation, spousal commitment, and death. This theme invites congregations to engage questions about rhythm, tempo, and pace in the passages of life and the practices of worship.
2011 | Worshiping God in this Place
In a mobile, fast-paced society marked by fragmenting ties to locale and alienation
from the natural world, this theme invites congregations to consider the actual inhabited landscapes upon which they live out their ministries. How does a congregation’s literal place in the world shape how it worships God? And how does participating in worship, music, and the arts enable the people of a certain place—for example, of a city, a historic district, a rural area, a watershed—to seek the welfare of this place?
Some congregations may attend to one small neighborhood while others explore regions marked by distinctive histories, ecologies, or cultures. However, all will be seeking to enhance awareness of the designated place as an arena of God’s grace through projects in worship, music, and the arts that can be shared with other congregations ministering there.