The worship ministry plays a vital role in the spiritual formation and discipleship of church congregations. Given how essential times of refreshing and rejuvenation are for worship leaders and all who serve in this ministry, the Methodist School of Music (MSM) launched the Worship Symposium in August 2006. Held once every two years, it is a platform where Christians of all denominations, both local and overseas, gather for a time of learning, sharing and being engaged in discussions about Christian worship and worship practice.
The theme of this year’s symposium was “Gathered as One”. It was a reminder of why we could gather in this manner (because of Christ), who we were gathered with (Christians throughout the ages), and what we were gathered for (to be a witness to the world).
In its seventh run, the three-day conference saw a total of 127 participants and 28 lecturers, instructors, facilitators and panellists interacting in meaningful conversation and fellowship. About 35 per cent of the participants were from overseas, from countries in Southeast Asia, China and India.
As each day began and ended with worship, participants had the privilege to worship together, twice a day, for three days. All were exposed to worship styles which they had not encountered before. This helped them discover for themselves the richness of each style and the immense diversity of God’s global Church.
One particular favourite was the evening service designed by the Rev Dr Michael Hawn, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Church Music at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University, USA. Based on the Lord’s Prayer, the service saw participants praising God in Indonesian and Argentinian, praying a prayer from Nicaragua, singing “Lord, have mercy” to tunes from Singapore and Pakistan, and sending one another off with blessings and a unique handshake from South Africa.
After each morning worship, Dr Jeffrey Truscott conducted plenary sessions based on his book, The 12 Whys of Worship.
The final plenary session, “Reflections on Contemporary Worship in Light of 2000 Years of Christian Worship”, was conducted by the Rev Dr Lester Ruth, a Research Professor of Christian Worship at Duke Divinity School, USA.
Through the plenaries, participants learned the reasons behind various acts of corporate worship and pondered on the strengths and weaknesses of contemporary worship from the perspective of Christians who have gone before us. They then split up into smaller groups to attend various lectures and skills-training sessions. The various topics ranged from music and theology, musicians as pastoral leaders, worship as community building, to vocal training, band dynamics, and a Worship 101 course for worship leaders. Lively panel discussions followed, with each day closing with dinner and evening worship.
MSM is very encouraged to have received positive feedback—an overwhelming majority looked forward to the next Worship Symposium. Do join us in 2021 for eye-opening experiences, inspiring speakers, and challenging conversations that will broaden your perspective on worship leadership!
Amelia Leo is a programme executive at the Worship and Church Music Department of the Methodist School of Music. She is a member of Fairfield Methodist Church and currently directs its choir.
Photos courtesy of Methodist School of Music