by Toya Richards Hill
Worship and the arts will converge this week at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (LPTS) during a conference designed to help participants stretch their liturgical imaginations.
The 2008 Worship and the Arts Conference, which begins July 9 and runs through July 12, will bring together a diverse group, including pastors, worship leaders, artists, church members, and seminarians, to explore creative approaches to worship planning and leadership.
“The desire is to create a dialogue between arts and worship,” said Dr. Claudio Carvalhaes, assistant professor of worship and preaching at LPTS. The idea is “to help people have experiences and encounters with God in many different ways and possibilities, mediums and styles.”
The goal also is to empower people and offer them tools to use at home to help people from their churches discover and rediscover their own gifts, he said. “We want to encourage conversations with local artists, to break down this wall between religion and arts,” Carvalhaes said.
LPTS, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Office of Theology and Worship and the Society for the Arts, Religion, and Contemporary Culture are sponsoring the conference, which has as its theme “The Body.”
“The Body is the body of Christ and the church, but also our own bodies as a site for God’s revelation,” Carvalhaes said.
Conference keynote speaker Mark A. Torgerson will address the topic in three lectures. Working under the umbrella of Celebrating the Body: Seeking Fullness in the Arts and Worship, he will speak on Inhabiting the Body: Ambiguity and Ecstasy, From Walking to Running: Uncovering Artists in our Midst, and Growing and Building: Integrating the Arts with Excellence in Worship.
Torgerson has been working and teaching in the areas of theology, worship, and the arts for 15 years. He recently authored An Architecture of Immanence: Architecture for Worship and Ministry in the Twentieth Century, which examines the development of theological, liturgical, and architectural influences in relation to church design.
Workshops led by liturgical artists and teachers on dance, drama, music, visual arts, and writing also will incorporate the conference theme.
“Our hope is that in these workshop participants will encounter new ways to engage the word … that they will find models for doing that through the workshop leaders,” said the Rev. David Gambrell, the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s associate for worship in the Office of Theology and Worship.”
Creative worship services additionally will be a major component of the event, with the final conference chapel service on July 12 planned completely by the participants.
“The people will create the worship service” for Saturday, said Carvalhaes, noting liturgy in Greek means work of the people. “It will be a creative process.”
Presbyterians tend to focus on the words, which is wonderful, Gambrell said. Yet, “we want to supplement that and … grow in new dimensions by using our other senses in worship.”
“We are trying to engage people’s senses in as many different ways as possible,” he said.