Having shared with Pray Tell readers a summary of the events comprising “Lift Up Your Hearts 2014,” the Australian National Liturgy Conference, I’d like to highlight some of the elements that made this conference so successful, perhaps as a series of recommendations to conference-planners in the future.
- Pray Tell readers may have noted just how much attention was spent on providing participants with food: morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea, an evening barbeque one day, a conference banquet another. All but the conference banquet were part of the price of the conference. This practice not only kept the pace of the conference from becoming overwhelming, but also offered natural opportunities for socializing and sharing insights after keynotes and breakout sessions.
- Opportunities for daily prayer (Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, Taize-style prayer) were frequent and well-prepared, with a full component of ministers, but no outlandish display. The music for these daily prayers was carefully chosen not only to be appropriate for the conference, but able to be used in the communities to which the participants would return. Modeling of wise pastoral choices was also in evidence in elements such as the use of some of the same music from day to day in the Liturgy of the Hours and Eucharistic service music from settings that are widely used already in Australia so that music rehearsal for conference liturgy was minimized.
- Throughout the breakout sessions there was a strong emphasis on inculturation. Most impressive to me was the welcome to country and concluding ritual offered by aboriginal people, but every day began with an acknowledgement of the peoples who originally guarded the land on which the conference was being held and the wisdom of the elders. What was especially stirring was that these elements were seamlessly incorporated into the flow of the conference and didn’t bear a sense of tokenism.
- Although a variety of purveyors of church goods and publishers were in evidence throughout the conference (and indeed were publically identified and thanked as sponsors of the event), one never got the impression that the conference was primarily an commercial event driven by economic concerns.
- Best of all, a genuine spirit of mutual respect marked the interchanges throughout the conference. So-called “progressive” speculations about future liturgical changes (e.g., the influence of eco-theology and feminist concerns) were not shut down, nor were so-called “conservative” appeals (e.g., on the New Liturgical Movement or the use of chant in worship) dismissed out of hand. Perhaps as Archbishop Mark Coleridge and Fr. Christopher Willcock said during the concluding panel, by going “deeper and wider” in our liturgical engagement we can overcome the “liturgy wars” of our recent past.