This summer I was fortunate to be able to attend the biannual Association of Lutheran Church Musicians (ALCM) conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The theme this year was Called to Be a Living Voice. Throughout the week we looked at what God is calling the church to do today and how we are called to be a part of it. A phrase used was viva vox evangelii – “the living voice of the gospel.” As musicians of the church we are called to be the vox Dei, the voice of God, and make the good news come alive again and again through music. Through proclaiming the word we become God’s voice, calling out to re-form a fractured and changing world.
Worship services at this event were, simply put, stunning. We began the conference gathering at the beautiful Lutheran Church of the Redeemer for opening worship. This service focused on our vocation in the church and a spiritual renewal for continued work in the kingdom of God. A special part of the service was when we came up individually to the altar for a blessing on our hands.
At the start of each day we gathered for Morning Prayer to start our day with the Word of God through scripture and song. Each Morning Prayer liturgy was in a different style and exposed us to the different ways our home congregations could embrace this ritual.
One of the highlights for me was attending worship at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. Ebenezer is Martin Luther King Jr.’s home church. The congregation is quite proud of their place in history and presented a truly wonderful worship service. Their full gospel choir was present and sang some of the most soulful music I’ve ever heard. A woman who was a contemporary of Dr. King’s, and sang at his funeral, was in the choir and sang a solo for us that received a standing ovation in the middle of worship. It was quite moving. We also sang the same arrangement of The Lord’s Prayer that Dr. King’s mother was playing while she was assassinated during worship.
Another centerpiece of the conference was the hymn festival, The Church’s Journey in Art and Song. We gathered in the majestic Peachtree Road United Methodist Church for this hymn festival centered on the reformation of the church through art and song. I’m sure you can imagine how amazing the singing was with 800 Lutheran church musicians singing together. If you would like to watch a video of the hymn festival just search “The Church’s Journey in Art and Song – ELCA Worship Jubilee 2015” on Youtube.
No ALCM conference would be complete with out a Beer and Hymns event so one night back at the hotel we gathered with a local garage band and sang hymns while we hung out at the bar and had drinks. I can only imagine what the rest of the hotel thought about all of us belting out When Peace like a River in the hotel atrium. Of course a conga line was started when the band played We Are Marching in the Light of God.
Yet another great reason for going to ALCM conferences is the reading sessions. All of the major music publishers come to our events with stacks of music. We are all given a copy of everything new published in the past year. The conference turns into a giant choir and we sing through everything. This allows us to hear the music before we buy it. I always find a few gems to bring back the HCLC during the reading sessions.
Of course there were many plenary speakers to listen to and classes to attend. We heard Paul Westermeyer, a professor from Luther Seminary, speak about how pastors and musicians can better work together in our common goals. Bishop Erwin spoke about how past cultures have shaped our worship and how we can embrace traditions while continuing to reform the church today. Our very own Rev. Leila Ortiz spoke about her life experiences in the Pentecostal and Lutheran churches. She gave an emotional talk about how she found God and the Holy Spirit and how we can structure our worship to lead all of God’s children to the love of Christ.
In one of the breakout classes, I attended Michael Krentz’s lecture titled, Singing along the Way: Music and Rites of Passage. Here we talked about how music plays a vital role in various rites of passage. In another breakout class, James Abbington discussed a collection of new hymns, all written in the past 25 years. We also discussed introducing new hymns, including how and when, and what criteria to use in selecting them. Emily Scott, pastor of St. Lydia’s Dinner Church in Brooklyn, New York, gave a wonderful talk about how our churches need to reflect the society we live in and provide what our community is hungry for. Rev. Scott’s community includes a large population of 20 and 30 somethings that live in tiny apartments and rarely gather at home with friends. In response, she created a church in a storefront in Brooklyn that does a “dinner church.” They gather in this homey space and cook and eat a meal together, all while elements of worship are incorporated. Rev. Scott encouraged each of us to identify what our community is hungry for and come up with ways to provide for them.
ALCM conferences happen every other year and I very much look forward to them. I have made many friends with other directors of music from all over the country. It is quite refreshing to gather with a group of people who do the same job you do. We are able to discuss issues we are having and find out how other churches have dealt with them. We are also able to brag about our successes and take ideas from other’s successes back to our home congregations. It is hard to convey the amount of nourishment I get from attending these conferences. I would like to thank HCLC for the opportunity to grow and learn at the ACLM events. I am looking forward to another great year and implementing new ideas to help us grow and develop worship that serves our community and praises our Lord.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Jeremy Shoop, Director of Music Ministries
August also marks Jeremy’s 10 year aniversary as Music Director of Holy Cross. Congratulations Jeremy!
Called to be a living voice ALCM conference 2015
Worship at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s home church.
Opening Eucharist at Redeemer Lutheran Church
Wednesday night hymn festival at Peachtree United Methodist.