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Harmonizing Hearts:
Reflections on the Inaugural SA Worship Conference

by Dan Elson

People from across the territory and beyond gathered to be part of the inaugural SA Worship Conference.

Whether using the “rhythm group” terminology of the 1960s or the phrase “worship team” often heard today, contemporary worship music has been, is, and will continue to be one part of The Salvation Army’s rich musical heritage. It is perhaps fitting that while many are reflecting on the impact of Major Joy Webb and the Joystrings – not only on Salvation Army music-making but also on how music could be used across the wider Christian church – the conference invited people to spend time focusing on how musical gifts can be offered up in worship to God.

Open to anyone with a passion for sung worship within Salvation Army settings, the conference saw about 60 participants singing, praying, reflecting, learning and, above all, worshipping together under the theme of coming back to the heart of worship.

It opened with a challenge from Naar M’fundisi-Holloway (Research and Development) to come back to the Lord and cast aside the distractions and diversions of everyday life, which can become barriers to true worship. Guests Geraldine Latty and Carey Luce led vocal and keyboard seminars, where delegates had the opportunity to develop instrument-specific skills and techniques, before delivering a powerful session of teaching on the seven C’s of keeping Christ at the heart of corporate worship.

Members of the weekend’s house band offered seminars on guitar, drums, and bass guitar. With the challenges and lessons of the day’s teaching fresh in our minds, our hearts and eyes were directed towards Jesus as Geraldine and Carey led an exuberant evening session filled with the joy of the Lord. It included sung prayer and even a touch of salsa dancing!

Sunday morning opened with Dan Bate (Preston) leading a stripped-back session of worship before A&R manager and producer Les Moir spoke about worshipping in the Spirit and in truth. Further seminars included audio-visual media, songwriting and leading worship, before a final all-together session where Captain Callum McKenna (William Booth College) challenged us to consider how leading worship relies on a combination of calling, competency, and character.

He reminded everyone present that musical competency alone is not a true offering of worship and that we must return to the heart of worship to serve the Lord well. This led to a powerful time of response where the makeshift mercy seat was repeatedly extended to accommodate delegates who had been invited forward to surrender their all as a living act of worship.

As the last notes of the house band rang in the air and the weekend concluded, there was a clear desire for more: more opportunities to gather with like-minded Christians and explore freedom in worship; more opportunities to develop practical skills that can be used to serve in local settings; more new songs to the Lord from songwriters inspired by being in his presence; and above all, a desire to seek more of who God is in our lives. Conversations have already begun in the Music and Creative Arts team and plans will soon be made on where we take this movement next, but one thing we know for certain is that God is moving in The Salvation Army!

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