2017 Conference

When Dancing Turns to Mourning:

Worshiping God in the face of violence


An ecumenical conference for pastors, musicians, other church leaders and interested laypeople

Amid today’s media-driven awareness and widespread fear, how do the worship, music, and art of the church make public witness to the human pain violence brings and to God’s presence with those who suffer in its wake?  In the face of violence, how can the worship, music, and art of Christian congregations offer praise to God, and how can they bring courage to those who are anxious, help to those who are suffering, and long-term formation in ways of peace? 

Reports and documents from the 2017 conference are now available! Click here or on the menu to the left.


Images from the 2017 conference

Photos by Tyler Gathro

June 13 - 15, 2017

We extend a warm invitation to pastors, musicians, and other church leaders to join our community of theologians and artists for three days of reflection on one of the most urgent concerns of our time—the violence that so often erupts in our lives and in our world.  

This concern is as old as the first murder and as new as this hour’s news. The title of our conference, “When Dancing Turns to Mourning,” is drawn from Lamentations—one of many places in scripture where God’s people struggle in the horrible aftermath of devastating events. In Lamentations the context is war, which has brought the unfathomable destruction of a people, a city, a temple. War wreaks violence in many parts of the world today as well. Meanwhile, violent acts of other kinds do damage in every human community—sometimes hidden, sometimes overt. Whether erupting in sudden crisis or eroding trust day by day over long periods of time, violence always exposes the fragility and vulnerability of human existence. 

Every congregation has come face to face with forms of violence that rupture the life of its neighborhood, city, or nation. Congregations are often on the front line of response to those who suffer injury or loss from violence, through outreach, work for justice, and pastoral care. While acknowledging that violence takes countless forms and evokes many different acts of ministry, we will focus on the problem, and the gifts, of worship, music, and art as dimensions of the church’s life in the face of violence.

Our time together will be:

  • Ecumenical, as we gather across a variety of communions and learn from the musical and liturgical gifts of different traditions
  • Practical, as we discover what other congregations are doing and reflect on challenges and opportunities in our own communities
  • Inspiring, as we experience the creation of a multidisciplinary work of art, and as we join in a great festival of hymns, participating in the testimony, hope, and endurance embodied in the song of the church
  • Renewing, as we lift up liturgical and artistic practices that have enabled communities of faith to bear witness and sustain hope across the generations, even in the face of violence   

We hope that you will join us for these days of reflection and renewal.


Martin Jean, Director, ISM
Dorothy BassConference Planner