The Ancient-Future Faith Network held its fifth annual convocation June 15-16, 2016, on the new campus home of the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies in Jacksonville, Florida, immediately following the IWS commencement and their semi-annual Alumni Worship Seminar.
Several of us were blessed to attend the commencement activities and worship service on Sunday, June 12, and then to participate in the seminar teaching and discussion sessions led by Dr. Christine Pohl (left) around the timely topic, “Cultivating Community and Worship: Practices that Define and Sustain Us.” Monday evening brought a particular joy and privilege as AFFN Founder and Board Chair Chris Alford was invited to address the gathering of IWS students and faculty, to share about the mission and activities of the AFFN, and to welcome some of the faculty into Network membership. It was also a great privilege for the Network to present a donation to the scholarship fund of the IWS. This was an exciting and encouraging start to a blessed and full week.
- Find video and other content related to Dr. Pohl’s presentations here at the IWS worship seminar page.
The AFFN Convocation
Then, for two full days the AFFN convocation combined both long-time friends and brand new Network members. We shared encouragement and inspiration, theological and practical insights, much joy and laughter along with deep prayers and mutual ministry– all with a sense and experience of true community and worship as telling, singing, praying and enacting the whole story of God. As always, we were encouraged and challenged by presentations from Network members. But, for the first time, each of the lecture/presentations was video recorded, and you have the opportunity here to experience a bit of the richness we all shared there in person.
Wednesday, June 15
We began each day with a devotional time of antiphonal Psalm readings, hymns and songs, and prayer. Our first session on Wednesday morning was a time of introductions and sharing, and for Chris to share some general thoughts on where we’ve been as well as current and future plans.
In our first Network member presentation, Dr. Carla Waterman led us in a rich teaching and discussion exploration entitled, “Exile, Imagination and the God of Steadfast Love.” Carla was a founding faculty member of the Institute for Worship Studies, and also has taught at Wheaton College and Northern Seminary. This study she shared with us has grown out of her current interest in understanding psalms of lament as prayers of hope. With a focus on the psalms of the Sons of Korah, in particular Psalms 42 and 43, Carla asked us to bear in mind these questions: Who were the Sons of Korah? And why do their psalms bear the repeated motif, “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases”? The answers she provided and the discussion that followed reveal just how meaningfully this message fits into and ministers to the needs of today, both to individuals and to the culture at large.
We closed our first morning session with an interview with Dr. Glenn Collard highlighting his work as founder and nurturer of the Charlotte AFFN Cloister and his newly established ministry, Corum Deo International. Glenn’s passion for Ancient-Future renewal in worship and theology is fueled by his long experience in Christian education, church and school music, international missions and church planting, and pastoral ministries that spans nearly 30 years, 60 countries, and four continents. At the end of the interview, as Chris Alford presented Glenn with the first annual Robert E. Webber Award for Outstanding Promotion of Ancient-Future Faith (picture, right).
Wednesday afternoon began with another interview, this time with Dr. Jennifer Harris Clayton, who shared with us the background and impetus for her newly-forming retreat ministry, The Wounded Worshiper Sanctuary. Jennifer, a third-generation church leader, holds music degrees from the University of Michigan and a doctoral degree from the Institute for Worship Studies. Jennifer’s heart and vision is that the Sanctuary will provide a safe haven of respite, retreat and recovery, where those who are weary and wounded can experience “the healing work of the Spirit to nurture and renew their minds, bodies, and souls for continued service.” This session ended with a time of prayer both for Jennifer and her ministry and for all those experiencing weariness in their call or ministry.
In our next session, Rev. Dr. Christopher J. Montgomery, O.S.L. – who just a few days prior to the convocation received his Doctor of Worship Studies degree (congratulations, Christopher!) – presented a thought provoking paper on sacramentality and the Kingdom. Christopher has held pastoral positions in worship and the arts in evangelical and Anabaptist congregations, and now is pastor of Sermon on the Mount Mennonite Church in Sioux Falls, S.D. In “Sacramentality: A Political Hermeneutic,” through a close reading of Mark 6;14-44 Christopher argued that the sacraments are gifts given to the Church to help us understand the way God relates to the world He has created and that the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, hold implications for the meaning we assign to ourselves as the Church and to our mission in the world around us.
Our final presentation on Wednesday featured Dr. Jacob Kaufman. Through the lens of “a pedagogical case study for worship leaders on prayer,” he led us through some of the theological and practical considerations involved in writing liturgical prayers. Jacob, who holds degrees in Christian thought and a DWS, is the chair of the music department and director of the contemporary Christian music program at Central Christian College in McPherson, Kansas. For his paper, “Teaching, Constructing, and Executing the Prayers of the People,” he drew from his planning and implementation of a recent class at the college. With particular emphasis on Luke 11:1-4, he highlighted these important questions: How are we formed as leaders through prayer? And, how are our congregations formed spiritually through our corporate prayers in worship?
We closed this first day of the convocation with a service of four-fold worship – Gathering, Word, Table, and Sending – and a time of sharing and praying with and for one another. Please see a copy of that liturgy here.
Thursday, June 16
After a devotional time of Word, song and prayer, Thursday morning opened with a visually rich and fascinating expedition through Church history by Dr. Lou Kaloger entitled, “The Story of Scripture and the Art and Architecture of the Church.” Lou holds degrees in fine arts and biblical studies and a doctoral degree in Worship Studies from the IWS. In addition to serving as pastor of Tampa Covenant Church, he is a professor and regular contributor to the online Relief Journal. With many examples and illustrations, Lou invited us to look closely the architecture and imagery of church structures and their contents through the ages. He then helped us to look more deeply still, into the often overlooked, seemingly small but extraordinarily significant details that reveal how artistic and architectural elements instruct and tell the whole story of God, and what that has meant to the lives of His people since the time of the ancient church.
In our next presentation, Dr. Marc Brown shared with us how he has brought Ancient-Future worship paradigms to both contemporary and traditionally-styled services in the Southern Baptist churches he has served in northern Virginia and north-central Kentucky. In “Synthesis and Summary: Applying Ancient-Future Principles in Evangelical Worship Traditions,” Marc led us through a practical, step-by-step teaching and discussion session based in the way he devises, plans and leads worship services. In this hour, we learned and shared many tips, suggestions and experiences – from choosing songs, prayers and readings, to incorporating complementary texts from the lectionary and reflecting the Christian year – that will be useful and adaptable in many settings.
The Final Session was our second, and now annual feature of these AFFN convocations: a focused discussion of one of Robert Webber’s books or another author’s work related to ancient-future faith, or of some aspect of ancient-future orthopraxy. Again this year, Dr. Ellen Koehler chaired and commented on the panel discussion, this time on Webber’s Ancient-Future Evangelism: Making Your Church a Faith-Forming Community. In this second book in the Ancient-Future Faith series (published in 2003), Bob addressed the question: How can our evangelism produce not only converts, but disciples who grow in faith and become active members of the church? In other words, how does mission look and function when the goal is not just breadth of numbers, but depth of maturity? Looking to the ancient church, Bob notes that evangelism and discipleship were not seen as separate activities or callings, but rather were integrally related, expressed and realized in a long-term, holistic process – a life-long journey that involved the whole Christian community. And he argues passionately that a recovery of the ancient ways provides the answers to the longings and conditions of the post-modern world.
Panelists for this lively and intriguing roundtable included Dr. James Hart (DWS, President of the Institute for Worship Studies), Dr. Nancy Nethercott (DWS, Co-Director of the IWS GROW Center, and TEAM missionary in Japan since 1987), Dr. Jonathan Nelms (DWS, pastor of Covenant Church in Cookeville, TN), and Ellen Koehler (Ph. D. in history, Director of Music and Liturgy at Epiclesis, Sacramento, and AFFN Board Member). Each of the panelists spoke to these questions from their own, diverse experiences and views. Jim spoke to the connection between mission and the growth of each of us in Christ-likeness, in essence godliness, as members of His body in the world. Nancy shared the implications and similarities of these responsibilities within the context of international evangelism. Jonathan encouraged and challenged us with experiences of his own congregation engaging in the needs of the Cookeville community in an ongoing way. And Ellen shared from the discipleship process at Epiclesis as an intentional implementation of the ancient understanding of evangelism and discipleship, what Webber calls a “Journey to Jesus.” The following discussion and comment period continued the exploration of these and other issues raised in Ancient-Future Evangelism.
The thread woven through the entire convocation was that of God’s desire to empower and enable us through spiritual formation – both individually and corporately – and in our callings as we serve Him. We all came away from this gathering with grateful hearts for new friendships made, existing relationships strengthened, and renewed excitement to go forth into the world to live out our baptisms, loving and serving the Lord. And we are already looking forward to our next annual convocation in Jacksonville, FL, in June 2017.
We would love to see you there!