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Saturday 22 August 2009

Liturgy Conferences in Sydney

I've just come back from some time in Sydney at two liturgy conferences. The first was the international meeting of Societas Liturgica. I stayed for three days, and that was enough for me. While I enjoyed catching up with friends and colleagues from overseas, I felt that we Australians squandered an opportunity to showcase our theological work on Christian worship. Most of the major papers were still looking at the conference theme - the church year - from the point of view of the northern hemisphere. Apart from an all-into-one presentation on the Wednesday, there was little Australian content.

The other thing that made this first conference deeply unattractive to me was the sheer amount of sitting around listening to academic papers. I found myself falling asleep from the sheer immobility of it all!

Thankfully, the second conference - a much smaller one - was really enjoyable. This one was based at the United Theological College in North Parramatta and the main speaker was Professor Gordon Lathrop. Gordon is one of the most thoughtful and generous liturgical theologians I know, and he did not disappoint across the five lectures he gave in four days. An American Lutheran, Gordon spoke comprehensively about both the place of the Gospels in the worshipping assembly and the place of the assembly in the Gospels. The lectures represented an initial work-out for materials that will eventually become part of Gordon's latest book.

The format of this conference, organised by the Rev Dr Robert McFarlane, allowed for plenty of active consideration of the papers presented by both Gordon and others. My own paper, 'New Wine and Old Wine Skins: the Traditioning of Worship' was well-received. Crucially, the conference also offered plenty of 'unscheduled' time for processing or for recreating.