National Worship Conference attacks barriers

The National Worship Conference is for clergy and laypeople who want to break down the barriers of worship life. It is for those who want to add more colour and life to Sunday mornings, and for those who need renewal. All are invited to gather for workshops, speakers, and worship in Winnipeg, Man., June 29 to July 2.

The National Worship Conference is a tradition of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and now, planning includes full-communion partners from the Anglican Church of Canada. It is also open to ecumenical participation.

Participants will explore the theme “Beyond the fortress” in conversations and symbols, said the Rev. Diane Guilford, the Anglican co-chair who serves alongside Lutheran Michele Barr.

During the first worship a wall of patio bricks will be set up for people to insert candles. These bricks will be moved and used throughout the conference to represent walls—exclusive and inclusive—that sometimes surround the worship experience.

This is one of many creative worship elements at the conference. There will also be liturgical dance, plenty of music and even a bonfire.

Ms. Guilford first experienced creative ecumenical worship as a student at the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad in Saskatoon. Now an incumbent at St. Stephen’s, Winnipeg, she pushes boundaries with events like an outdoor baptism, framed by wild greenery.

The conference is designed to include the experience of smaller and rural communities, notes Ms. Guilford.

“Our hope and prayer is that when people leave they will be able to, no matter what the size of their church, integrate [new ideas] into their worship,” she said.

Plenary speakers are Doug Cowling, a musician, author, liturgist, and regular contributor to CBC Radio and the Rev. Dr. Craig Van Gelder, professor of congregational mission at Luther Seminary.

Mr. Cowling will speak about liturgical development and the need for continual renewal, especially at the local level.

Dr. Van Gelder’s teaching focuses on helping congregations adapt to dramatically changing contexts. He said he hopes to bring Biblical, theological insight to help participants think “beyond the fortress.”

“What if God’s spirit is in the midst of disrupting us out of our comfort zone out of our patterns of the past and into a new space to rediscover how to be God’s people in this changing environment?” he said.

For Dr. Van Gelder, worship is an essential part of adaptation. Congregations must steward their tradition through worship while still adapting to change.

“I’m looking forward to disrupting [conference participants] enough to invite them into a space of risking,” he said.

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