Fourteenth Annual Conference:
Conversations on Church Music Practice:
The Elephant in the Room

November 3 – 5, 2013

Last year, The Good Shepherd Institute ventured into unknown territory with its topic “Shepherd of Tender Youth: Connecting Postmoderns to Christ.” We saw some new faces as a result, as well as many of our faithful attendees whom we see every year. Overall, we were delighted at the response and received some e-mails indicating that “stepping out” of our normal pattern was a good thing.

But there was something missing. Some of our guests who are musicians noted that there were no “break-out” sessions for them, something they missed, something we knew they would miss, but our emphasis on youth didn’t lend itself to a particular session for our musicians.

Alongside this healthy critique of last year’s conference, a topic began to emerge from conversations we were having with some of our most trusted friends. As someone put it, “maybe it is time to address ‘the elephant in the room.’”

For years in teaching and presenting on the historic liturgy of the church, we have found that most people do not have trouble with the “ordo” of the Divine Service. They recognize that the “liturgy” of Word and Sacrament and its traditional structure is salutary for the life of the church, along with the structures that prepare us to hear Christ’s Word and receive His Sacrament, as well as the distribution of the Sacrament itself. Even most people acknowledge that the ordinaries—the Kyrie, Gloria in Excelsis, Creed, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei—are meet, right, and salutary. When presented clearly with historical and theological rationales, the beauty of the Divine Service, what many call the historic liturgy, is something almost everyone can agree on, and even assent to its necessity for Sunday eucharistic practice.

The “elephant in the room,” of course, is the music that we use for the Divine Service, not just for the ordinaries, but the hymns and songs we sing. So we think it’s time to have a conversation about this, and our conference this year is entitled “Conversations on Church Music Practice: The Elephant in the Room.” Both Kantor Resch and I are grateful for conversations we’ve already had with our Dean of Chapel, Dr. Paul Grime, and our Associate Kantor and resident composer, Kevin Hildebrand. Together we are acknowledging that it’s time to talk about “the elephant in the room.”

Our format this year will be unlike any we have had before in the previous thirteen conferences. We are inviting four speakers we believe are the finest conversation partners we can think of for this conference. Each of them will give a short presentation—about fifteen minutes, and then the rest of the conference will be a conversation between them and us around some questions we will pose to them about church music practice.

Please join us in our conversations on Lutheran church music practice at the annual conference of The Good Shepherd Institute, November 3–5, 2013.