Review of June Programs Related to Liturgy

As June nears its end I can report on two conventions and one summer degree program of potential interest to Pray Tell readers: the annual meetings of the College Theology Society and Catholic Theological Society of America, plus the summer degree programs in liturgy and preaching offered by the School of Theology at Sewanee: The University of the South.

“Liturgy + Power” was the theme of the annual convention of the College Theology Society (CTS), held June 2nd through 5th at Rockhurst University in Kansas City. I had the honor of giving the opening plenary address, “Sacramental Liturgy as Negotiation of Power, Human and Divine.” In the first part I reviewed key theologians and ritual theorists to arrive at the following assertion: Every liturgical enactment entails the power of God (the Spirit) working through the power of ritual and symbolic engagement contextualized within the whole range of other forms of power the participants experience in church and society. Then followed part two, a description and analysis of one particular liturgical event along those power lines, demonstrating how “second order theology” can motivate, renew, and advance practice (“primary theology”).

Subsequent plenary addresses over the next two days included Susan Ross’s “Power and Weakness: Liturgy and Justice in the World” and Ricky Manalo’s “The Liturgy of Life.” The complete texts of all three plenaries plus selected papers from the dozens of concurrent sessions addressing the convention theme across disciplines (biblical, systematic-theological, ethical, practical) will eventually become available in a volume published by Orbis Books (I promise to post a Pray Tell notice when that time comes!). Meanwhile, interested readers can review the convention program’s detailed account of all topical sessions, paper titles, and presenters on the CTS website — altogether quite an account of how a wide range of professors are thinking, teaching, and writing about sacraments and liturgy.

The Catholic Theological Society of America (CTSA) held its annual convention in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from June 9th through 12th, with the theme “Justice and Mercy.” The program included the regular topical session on Sacraments and Liturgy, which this year included presentations related to the convention theme by Rhodora Beaton (College of St. Catherine), Jonathan Stotts (Vanderbilt University), and Susan Ross (Loyola University of Chicago). Unfortunately, I cannot recount here the titles of their papers, as I only had digital access to the program, which the CTSA has now removed from their site. The CTSA Proceedings, however, will be published online (free access) by summer’s end. I promise to post a review of the paper titles with link to the Proceedings site once it reaches publication.

I also managed to snag one of the few Select Sessions on this year’s CTSA program, launching my newly published The Essential Writings of Bernard Cooke: A Narrative Theology of Church, Sacrament, and Ministry. Panelists discussed the book’s four thematic chapters: Daniel Horan, O.F.M., fundamental theology; Elizabeth Johnson, C.S.J., Christology; Kimberly Hope Belcher, sacramental theology; and Richard Lennan, church and ministry. My report summarizing their main points will likewise appear in the forthcoming CTSA Proceedings, which I’ll include in my future posting. In the meantime, I shall soon post an overview of the new book.

I conclude with a brief description of the summer program at the School of Theology in Sewanee. The annual three-week session (this year, June 6th through 24th), includes D.Min. programs in both liturgy and preaching. I was invited to give the course “Eucharistic Theology,” while School Dean J. Neil Alexander gave the seminar “Major Texts in Liturgical Renewal from Ecumenical Perspective.” Descriptions, with reading lists, for those plus all the other courses can be read on the Advanced Degree Program site. Students were mostly Anglican and Episcopal priests (and one bishop), with others including Lutheran and Methodist ministers. Liturgy for each of the fifteen class days included morning and evening offices and midday Eucharist in the School’s Chapel of the Apostles.

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