Cherished tradition took its place alongside bold innovation as expressions of worship at the Conference of Music and Gospel Arts June 2-3 in Atlanta. Colonels Robert and Gwenyth Redhead were the special guests at the event held at the Atlanta Temple Corps, Southern Territorial Headquarters and the Ferst Center for the Arts on the Georgia Tech campus.
Some 600 registered delegates attended the conference, which included Friday evening and Saturday morning meetings at the Atlanta Temple, and a closing festival finale Saturday evening at the Ferst Center. The weekend also included concurrent concerts at the Atlanta Temple and THQ and a visual arts exhibit.
The theme of the two days' events was "Windows of Worship." The Redheads, British officers who retired from active service in 2005, continue to travel the world encouraging and facilitating creative and innovative styles of worship. They will also be the special guests at the Territorial Music Institute this summer.
Robert Redhead said just before the start of the conference that he hoped the event would help Salvationists "come back to the heart of worship and not worry so much about the forms of worship.
"Worship can be very wide and broad in its forms," he said. "But it's the heart that counts when we worship. God isn't interested in the style of worship - He's interested in the heart."
The Redheads, who spoke in tandem in each of the three main meetings, compared worship to a multi-faceted jewel that is presented by the believer as a rough stone and through God's working is cut and polished into a priceless gem. They characterized the jewel as an eight-sided stone containing reverence, celebration, submission, meditation, reflection, prayer, service and adoration.
In Saturday morning's session, the Redheads took an analytical look at contemporary trends affecting worship practices and the concerns that are raised as a result. For Salvationists, those concerns include a lack of awareness of the need for renewal in worship, lack of freedom in worship, generational disparities in the approach to worship, the cessation of distinct holiness and salvation emphases in meetings, the challenge of short-term officer appointments in corps, disparities in the abundance of resources and the challenge to develop good musicians and other creative artists.
They said that the challenge to Salvationists is to acknowledge that those issues are real and significant, to ask God to provide spiritual direction in addressing the challenges and to take responsibility for responding effectively to them.
The performances over the two days covered a broad range of worship expressions. Traditional Salvation Army bands, songsters and solo vocalists had a prominent place on the programs, but the more contemporary forms of worship were featured as well, including small musical ensembles, drama, mime, dance and monologue. The three main sessions on Friday evening, Saturday morning and Saturday evening featured many performances, and a wide variety of other individuals and groups were on the program in concurrent concerts at THQ and Atlanta Temple on Saturday.
In Saturday evening's Windows of Worship festival, special tribute was paid to Commissioners Phil and Keitha Needham, who retire this month after serving four years as Southern territorial leaders. The salute to the Needhams included a special composition honoring the Needhams, written by Stephen Bulla and titled "In Light We Walk." The piece was introduced by Commissioner Paul Kellner.
Also honored for his contributions to Army musical programs was Bandmaster Jack Morrison of the Texas Division. Commissioner Phil Needham presented Morrison with a Certificate Recognizing Exceptional Service from the USA National Headquarters. Morrison has provided distinguished leadership at the Dallas Temple Corps for more than 50 years. In Friday's service, Lt. Colonel Max Feener, chief secretary, presided over a special ceremony recognizing outstanding music leaders from each of the nine divisions of the USA South.
Songster Leader Captain Stan Colbert was recognized for his leadership of the Territorial Songsters. Colbert is stepping down as the leader of the group, and Bandmaster James Anderson will succeed him as leader.
A video presentation in the Saturday evening meeting announced that $7,833,741 was raised in this year's World Services ingathering.