National Worship Conference: connection between liturgy and justice

By Rev. Matthew Kieswetter

Lutherans, Anglicans, and Christians from other traditions converged in Waterloo from July 24 to 27 for the National Worship Conference, which meets in a new city every two years. The theme of this year’s event was “Formation & Reformation: How Can Worship be a Catalyst for Justice and a Response to God’s Mission?”

Comprised of energetic worship gatherings, fellowship events, plenary sessions, and a variety of workshops, the keynote speakers were Rev. Dr. Stephen Larson, who has worked internationally on matters of liturgy and ecumenism, and  Very Rev. Bruce Jenneker, Canon Liturgist for the Diocese of Saldanha Bay in South Africa, and former Canon Precentor of Washington National Cathedral in the ECUSA. They shared an emphasis on the role of liturgy in forming Christians, and how God, as revealed in scripture, is a God of action and reconciliation who sides with the vulnerable and oppressed, calling Christians to keep alive the subversive memory of the Paschal mystery: the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz and National Bishop Susan Johnson offered reflections and distillations of the conference, speaking of how our worship must reflect and speak to our context and culture, and relate to our daily lives as disciples of Jesus. More and more, challenged Bishop Johnson, Christians are realizing that our faith must not be compartmentalized, but instead, be integrated into the whole of our lives.

A joyous event in the course of the conference was the awarding of the Companion of the Worship Arts awards. Recognized for their contributions to the life of the Church were  Rev. André Lavergne and Rev. Dr. Paul Gibson. Their engagement with scripture, song, liturgy, and pastoral care has immeasurably impacted and shaped the Anglican and Lutheran Churches in the years of twentieth and twenty-first century liturgical renewal.