Sunday, July 5, 2009

Renewal at Montreat

SWMBO and I are attending the Christian Life Conference held at Montreat every year by Presbyterians for Renewal (PFR). This first evening consisted of registration, and then the keynote speaker. This is our first time at the conference, but it has been going on since 1972.

Our keynote speaker, the Rev. Dr. Alice Ridgell, is a very powerful speaker, coming from the African-American tradition of preaching. Having listened to my friends from Plodding Theological Seminary talk about the homiletics classes they've gone through, it was very interesting to hear her, and pick up on the repetition that a good sermon must have to reinforce the teachings therein.

The conference theme this year is Our Father's Love, and the sermon's topic of No Greater Love kept referring back to that theme, which was printed on the banners hanging from the Anderson Assembly Hall stage. She kept referring back to those banners and its theme, by gestures and turning toward them when emphasizing her topic. Very effective preaching. A few AMENs were heard from the Frozen Chosen in the pews at salient points, something you would not have expected considering the light complexion of the assemblage.

The worship leader is the Rev. Dr. Robert Austell, who blogs at lighthouse/searchlight church. He brought some of his worship team with him, and the group is fabulous. He's doing a blend of traditional and contemporary music, and I can really get into that. However, some in the assemblage do not feel the same way.

After the keynote, many of us migrated to Assembly Hall's upper lobby for a hymn sing. Using the blue hymnal, we sang many outstanding traditional hymns. The Rev. Paul Detterman, Executive Director of PFR, and an outstanding musician and singer in his own right (his very precise tenor kept me on the tenor line all evening ... well mostly), accompanied on the piano as people called out their favorite hymns. That said, I wished for a red hymnal so that we could sing Onward Christian Soldiers which didn't make it into the blue hymnal as (I'm given to understand) it was too militaristic. Talk about misunderstanding the words and thoughts behind that great hymn.

Anyway, one gentleman of great years remarked at the end of the sing, that the earlier worship music time left him unfulfilled, and this hymn sing made him filled. As my wife commented as we walked to our car, we weren't singing for him. Kind of sums up many of the issued of the music wars in our churches. What are now traditional hymns were as contemporary in their day, and probably had the same complaints as our contemporary hymns do today. Which reminds me, I need to get in touch with the music director at Stodgy Presbyterian. We need to select a few contemporary hymns and songs to start our praise and worship time starting on the 12th. These ten minutes prior to our Summer worship is the closest we can get to a contemporary or blended worship right now.

And so it goes ....

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