Earlier in the week, we have been at the Region 4 conference of the Association of Lutheran Church Musicians (ALCM) held at California Lutheran University in cool Thousand Oaks, CA. The theme of the conference was “Behold I Tell You a Mystery: Telling God’s Story in the 21st Century.” In case you don’t know, going to a church music conference is like running a marathon. Beginning at 8 am and ending about 9:30 pm, our days were filled with inspiring services, thought-provoking lectures, interesting workshops, a hymn festival and “bonding” time during meals with our fellow church musicians. I remember writing a blog post a year ago when we were at the national ALCM conference in Seattle that one of my favorite aspects of these meetings in renewing friendships with our Lutheran colleagues across the country. Besides Carl and myself, there was one other person here from Hawaii, Tom Poole of Calvary by the Sea Lutheran Church in Aina Haina.
Right from the opening worship service I knew we were in for a treat. The Rev. Lorne Manweiler from Alberta, Canada, gave an articulate and witty sermon about worship planning and being surprised by not having everything go as planned. Throughout the week, I heard several people quote parts of his sermon. He is an organist as well as a pastor and I appreciated that he knew both sides of the aisle.
Certainly one of the highlights was the presence of The Rev. Mary Canniff-Kuhn, master storyteller and pastor of Lutheridge, a Lutheran campground in North Carolina. She held the audience spellbound with her dramatic and engaging stories of faith in a keynote address as well as sermons throughout Morning Prayer services. She says that telling stories is not merely saying words, just as presenting music is not just playing or singing the right notes. As musicians we need to invite people to come into our world, take them on a journey, then “let them down gently” when it’s over.
My sister, Doris MacDonald and her singing partner, Sharon Dennis of The Braeded Chord gave an intriguing workshop on “Intergenerational Worship.” In their church they hold an annual Teen Worship Boot Camp to involve youth. Doris told us stories of churches where they had to act as counselors and mediators to bring musically and generationally-divided people together. We divided into small groups and were assigned a task to come up with a melody, rhythm, rap verse or movement to a psalm verse.
The first day also included an organ recital and five other workshops. After a barbecue supper, there was a hymn festival which interspersed Canniff-Kuhn’s stories and scripture with traditional as well as contemporary hymnody, played excellently by Lorne Manweiler.
The Braeded Chord premiered a new setting of Evening Prayer which followed the hymn festival. Carl Crosier was the cantor.
All that on the first day — no wonder we were tired (but happy!)