Worship and Music Conference content now available online

August 30, 2021 by Sally Scherer

This summer’s Presbyterian Association of Musicians annual conference at Montreat was held in person and online.

But if you missed it – or simply want to share your experience with others – another option is available.

A recordings package of the 2021 Worship and Music Conference “Gather in My Name,” which includes 56 videos, with worship services, evening events, and livestreamed classes, is available on the PAM website.

PAM is a national organization of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for people who are involved in the areas of worship, music, and the arts.

“There’s an incredible wealth and talent,” in the recordings, said Mark Kemp, president-elect of the PAM executive board and music director at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greenville, S.C.

The conference offers worship and music for professionals, clergy, laypersons, choirs and youth groups. Classes are offered to adults, high schoolers, middle schoolers and children.

Renowned speakers

Included in the recordings package is the Rev. CeCe Armstrong, associate pastor of St. James Presbyterian Church in Charleston, S.C., and her presentation “Preaching, teaching … same thing, right?” and Routley Lectures speaker, Tom Trenney, composer, conductor and Minister of Music at First-Plymouth Congregational Church in Lincoln, Neb.

Viewers can watch Phillip Shoultz, associate conductor and director of learning and engagement of VocalEssence, one of the world’s premier choral music organizations, lead the conference adult choir and Conference Artist Lauren Wright Pittman share her insight on the symbolism and connections to scripture and liturgy in all the conference artwork.

Said Kemp, “You don’t see this sort of assembly (of experts) in many places.”

There are also worship services, Bible studies and liturgical movement segments.

Churches and individuals can purchase the recorded sessions. The cost for an individual is $99; for a congregation it ranges from $149-$399 depending on membership size.

“And the price is a bargain,” Kemp said. “You’re not going to find any experience or any continuing education at this price.”

Added Eric Wall, president of the PAM executive board and assistant professor of sacred music at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, “Last year we recorded the whole thing. This year we recorded things that we thought would be helpful afterward.”

Overview of recordings

Conference recordings include:

  • Six dynamic daily worship services, plus five Worship Reflection panel discussions about each service
  • Outstanding evening events: Organ recital, Liturgical Art Conversation, Hymn Festival, Chamber Choir Concert, and Closing Concert with all musical ensembles.
  • Five copyright seminars for churches with helpful tips for in-person and online worship services
  • An adult Bible study: “How to Do Church” with Rev. Dr. Margaret Aymer from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

“There are ways for individuals or for churches to purchase this and to use it as a Sunday school series. That’s our hope,” Wall said.

Kemp agreed. “You can view it at your convenience, it lasts, and you can come back to it. How much more convenient can it be, especially for those who can’t get their worship team to the conference?”

This year, the PAM Worship and Music conference was held June 20-25 and June 27-July 2. The second week was recorded and is being made available.

This is the second year that organizers had to create another way for attendees to participate in the popular and much-loved conference.

In 2020 – during the midst of the COVID crisis – PAM was having its 50th anniversary celebration. A team of 40 put on the conference without attendees other than the 950 who watched live on video. Team members were quarantined before and during the conference.

A video recording of the 2020 conference was available on the PAM website.

While not having participants in 2020 may seem disappointing, organizers agreed that because the conference was live streamed it was available to many more people across many different time zones. And even more people had access when the recorded sessions were made available.

“Last year was one kind of experiment and this year was another,” Wall explained. “Virtual is here to stay. It’s a piece we would have never thought of (until COVID). But it has provided a gift.”

This year, about 900 people registered for the conference. CDC approved COVID-19 guidelines for safety were in place, including masking requirements and social distancing. Again, the conference was live streamed with about 300 more people tuning in from home.

Organizers added several new features for viewers including a Montreat “newsroom” where folks talked and shared information about the conference, just as participants would have had they been there in person.

Wall said organizers worked hard to make those viewing online feel included. Rather than speakers simply greeting attendees in the room, they acknowledged those watching online, he said. Viewers could ask questions via email.

In 2020 and 2021, GNTV Media Ministry, a faith-based video production company, produced the videos.

“The great thing is they aren’t just a video production company,” Wall said. “They’re a church video production crew. We didn’t have to teach them. They can think liturgically. They were part of the team.”

What will the 2022 conference be like? Organizers are in the planning stages, but they know livestreaming and recording will be a major part of it. And they’re OK with that.

“Through it all, it’s different than our expectations because it’s not dependent on us,” Kemp said. “We’ve discovered God in new and different ways. And that’s something the church will do well to remember.”

Sally Scherer is a writer and communications consultant based in Lexington, Kentucky. She is a member of Second Presbyterian Church, where she is an elder, deacon and a member of the choir.