Feb. 7, 2012
The term “church musicians” conjures images of performers: organists and guitarists playing on Sunday morning or sopranos and tenors trading solos on ambitious anthems. But the idea that every person in attendance for worship is also a church musician is a key theme of Candler School of Theology’s spring conference, “The Singing Church: Current Practices and Emerging Trends in Congregational Song.” As part of the conference, John Bell, renowned for his ability to get an entire church singing, will lead an evening of music on March 20 at 7:30 p.m. in Cannon Chapel.
“This event promises to be an extraordinary experience that will bring out ways of singing that people don’t even know they have within themselves,” says Barbara Day Miller, associate dean of worship and music at Candler School of Theology and the lead planner of the “The Singing Church” conference. “John Bell brings people together with song so that you feel that you’re a part of something bigger than yourself.”
Bell is an ordained minister of the Church of Scotland and a member of the Iona Community, an ecumenical Christian group known for its commitment to communal worship and issues of peace and justice. Founded in Scotland in 1938, the Iona Community is based on the island of Iona and in Glasgow and has become a point of pilgrimage and retreat for Christians of all denominations.
Bell focuses primarily on Iona’s commitment to participative worship, and he travels throughout the world to equip congregational leaders – and members of the congregations themselves – with the tools to delve more deeply into worship and scripture. He has composed numerous hymns and songs, including “The Summons,” and is known for integrating songs from around the world into a congregation’s repertoire.
Don Saliers, William R. Cannon Distinguished Professor of Theology and Worship, Emeritus, describes Bell as “profoundly shaped by Celtic folk traditions and a prophetic sense of scripture and poetry” and anticipates a “lively and challenging” presentation on March 20.
Day Miller says attendees should come ready to sing, but there is no need to worry about level of musical talent or familiarity with Bell’s work. “All you need is a desire to participate more deeply in worship through song,” she says. “You’ll come away from the evening convinced that we all can be church musicians.”
Admission to “An Evening with John Bell” on March 20 is included in the registration for attendees of “The Singing Church” conference. Those not attending the conference can purchase general admission tickets to the event for $20. You can purchase John Bell tickets at http://tinyurl.com/JohnBellConcert.