This week I am excited and honored to be taking part in the Yale Congregations Project in New Haven, Connecticut 21-26 June along with my colleague Melanie and my friend Brian. We comprise the team from St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia. I'm tweeting, too, using the hashtag #YaleCP
The morning began by boarding a bus with many people I did not know, and traveling to First Presbyterian Church, New Haven. By the end of the day, I, and everyone else on the bus, had many new acquaintances and insight into the lives of seven other congregations.
We began with prayer, seated at our round tables, singing an Indonesian Psalm refrain "Haleluya! Pujilah tuhan" with hand clapping. The clapping ostinato would continue after the sung refrain ended, and various people spoke verses of Psalm 95.
We received a warm welcome from Martin Jean, the director of the institute.
Then Dorothy Bass, who will also serve as facilitator for our plenary session Monday, introduced the theme for the week: "Hark, the glad sound: welcoming new and returning Christians to worship". She focused on three central threads she saw running through the various projects: Hospitality, Testimony, and Ritual Engagement (St. Paul's, Richmond was mentioned in connection to this last area).
Then followed introductions of all the congregations taking part in the seminar this week:
We had a very fine panel on our theme for the week. Narrative emerged as an important strand in all this. Craig Mueller, an ELCA pastor from Chicago was outstanding.
Our time at the church ended with Evening Prayer, in the church itself, with Martin Jean leading the hymns from the organ.
Two personal connections: my wife and her early music ensemble met the musician at the Chicago Temple when they performed there recently. And the organist from Robertson-Wesley coordinated the McGill Summer Organ Academy the year I attended, about 10 years ago. I sat next to her at this evening's very fine performance of the Rachmaninoff Vespers, after which I made more personal connections, including one with Glenn Miller, the super-profundo organist & choirmaster at Kirk of the Hills, Bloomfield, Michigan.
This conference is filled with remarkable people and stories. It is a real blessing to be here.
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