The 2015 biannual Congress of Societas Liturgica was organized around the theme of “Liturgical Formation: traditional task and new challenge.” One hundred and eighty-nine members and guests of this ecumenical liturgical society from around the world gathered at Laval University in Québec City from August 10-15 to hear talks, share in discussions, make or renew professional contacts, and enjoy the local culture.
Presentations and instructions were given in the three conference languages: French, German, and English. Altogether, twenty-four countries were represented. They were (in no particular order): Canada, the United States, Brazil, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, Australia, France, Sweden, South Africa, Belgium, United Kingdom, Japan, Finland, Austria, Uruguay, India, Iceland, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong, Italy, and Taiwan. It has been observed that the talks and papers at Societas pale beside the coffee breaks!—the opportunity to meet and talk with so many who are doing work in the field of liturgy is truly amazing.
Daily prayer in a variety of churches and reflective of the different Christian traditions also inspired us and enriched our time together. For example, we had a Malabar Rite evening prayer, and a Methodist evening prayer. Morning Prayer each day was crafted for our group, using symbols common to all: such as water and light. The opening prayer event at the Cathedral-Basilica of Notre Dame featured a recollection of the history of Quebec. A Mrs. Andicha of the Huron-Wendat Nation welcomed us on the steps with a traditional purification rite. This was followed by words of welcome from Cardinal Archbishop Gérald Cyprien Lacroix, who greeted the assembly and acknowledged the President of Societas, Rev. Dr. Lizette Larson-Miller, and Prof. Gilles Routier of Laval University, the hosting institution, as well as the local Anglican bishop and other church leaders who were in attendance. All of us then processed into the church for the service. A choir made up of participants sang throughout the week’s daily services. The Congress Eucharist, celebrated near the end of the week, was held at the Anglican Cathedral. We were treated to a masterful display of change-ringing before and after the service!
Lizette Larson-Miller’s presidential address, offered on the first day, articulated the theme of the Congress overall. The presentations which were offered during the week were organized around six research axes. There was a major presentation for each axis, followed by concurrent sessions presenting papers and short communications. Patrick Prétot spoke about the history of liturgical formation; Gilles Routier examined systematic perspectives on how liturgical formation works; Stephan Winter’s presentation addressed the question of whether the goal of liturgical formation is to become a better Christian; Alexander Deeg discussed authority in liturgical formation; I discussed reciprocity in liturgical formation; and, finally, Marcel Barnard spoke about cultural change and liturgical formation. Breakout sessions included some 83 papers or short communications, as well as a discussion session for each of the major addresses.
The Congress includes a business meeting as well, at which the members received reports on the organization and elected a new officers. Our new president, Martin Stuflesser, officially took office. Joris Geldhof, our president-elect, who is hosting the next Congress in Leuven in 2017, gave us a preview of the sites and arrangements. The venue of the 2019 Congress—which will be held in Durham—was also announced. The publication of Societas, Studia Liturgica, continues to make a strong contribution to liturgical studies, and is developing a new design under the leadership of editor Peter C. Bower.
Societas Liturgica was founded because of the initiative of Wiebe Vos, a pastor of the Dutch Reformed Church, who, in 1962, started the publication Studia Liturgica (the journal actually predates the membership organization). In 1965 Vos called a conference of twenty-five liturgists, who met in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. Out of that meeting Societas Liturgica emerged: “an association for the promotion of ecumenical dialogue on worship, based on solid research, with the perspective of renewal and unity.” Over the years many eminent liturgists have belonged to the organization. It currently includes about 400 members.