Hark the Glad Sound: Inviting New and Returning Christians to Worship

Reaching out with the Gospel to those who are not active members is a concern all Christian congregations share, even though they often use different words to describe it (evangelism, outreach, mission, church growth, hospitality). Throughout Christian history, creativity in music and the arts has played a crucial role in opening Christian worship to new or returning participants. Through the crèche of Saint Francis, the hymns of Wesley and Watts, the architecture of the Los Angeles Cathedral, and countless other projects, church leaders have developed fresh liturgical and artistic forms that speak powerfully to their contemporaries in the midst of changing contexts. Doing so requires theological discernment, cultural sensitivity, strategic savvy, and confidence in the grace of God. Today many strong congregations are working to develop creative approaches to outreach. The 2013 summer seminar will gather teams of leaders from such congregations. For their own mutual learning and for the sake of other congregations who yearn for insight, we shall ask how contemporary congregations are reaching out to proclaim the Gospel in a society undergoing massive change in technology, religious belonging, generational division, and other aspects of social organization, and also how they might do so more fully. How can and do congregations reach out to groups who are underrepresented within the congregation (for example, young adults, non-English speakers, families with young children, those with disabilities, artists)? How might they assess and negotiate the hold of tradition and the allure of the new in worship, music, and the arts? How should they think theologically, as congregations, about the relationships between the language, sounds, and images of Christian worship and those of popular culture?