Liturgical Music Student Reflects on Symposium Experience

Written by Lucas Tomlinson, first year candidate for MA in Liturgical Music

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March 2, 2018

As a first year candidate for the MA in Liturgical Music, I was delighted to discover that the School of Theology had received a grant from the Calvin Institute for Worship, which is associated with the Lily Endowment. The grant gives funds to worshipping communities who are creatively engaging their congregation through music, art and liturgy. Our project aims to understand other cultural music idioms outside our western paradigm and allow their influence to animate our liturgical music. 

 A highlight of this grant was attending the Symposium on Worship at the Calvin Institute. Saint John’s School of Theology liturgical music students, along with our department head, Fr. Anthony Ruff, went to Grand Rapids, MI, where the headquarters of the Calvin Institute for Worship. Every day we worshipped, ate, conversed and learned alongside a diverse group of Christians from 40 different countries and over 200 denominations. It was an enriching experience. 

 Authenticity and cultural inclusivity were two themes that surfaced at the symposium. Regarding the former, we are to own our own cultural identity and the creative impulses that drive us in regards to music and liturgy. When we delve deeper into our identity, we create a space around us that is hospitable. Once we create that space, fruitful dialogue can happen.

 Regarding cultural inclusivity, I witnessed communities at the symposium who were using music and art from other traditions and cultures in a way that reverenced their source. When performance practice flows from a place of relationship, the result is unity while maintaining distinction.

 I was delighted to attend this symposium and look forward to attending in the future. I know the people and ideas I encountered will have a great influence on my future work in church music. I am very grateful to be a part of the School of Theology, where we value the past and embrace of the present, and use both to become better members of our communities.