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How does Matthew 25 show up in worship?

This summer’s Worship & Music Conference propels attendees to do the work in their faith communities

by Rich Copley | Special to Presbyterian News Service

MONTREAT, North Carolina — People with ears tuned to the Matthew 25 vision of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) heard plenty of support for the movement woven through this summer’s Worship & Music Conference presented by the Presbyterian Association of Musicians (PAM), which is a Matthew 25 group.

The Matthew 25 goals of dismantling systemic poverty and structural racism and inspiring congregational vitality are an important part of worship, the conference’s worship leaders said. Here are some quick thoughts from several of them:

Eric Wall, conference co-musician: The interactions of the Matthew 25 initiative … interact with worship and music in different ways. We think of worship as something that propels people into the world to work on those things, and worship and music have their part in doing that.

The Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia preaches while liturgist the Rev. Kendra Buckwalter Smith listens. (Photo by Katherine Kupar, Presbyterian Association of Musicians)

The Rev. Larissa Kwong Abazia, conference preacher: The hope is that we’re able and invited to bring all that we are, all that we hope to be, all that God calls us to be, and experiment together to more deeply understand that sense of call, so that when we go out into the world, we don’t shy away from asking the tough questions and trying to be a part of the solution when it comes to issues of justice, when we see people who are marginalized and oppressed — that we understand that who we’re called to be is who were called to be together in that larger community, and we can’t do it alone.

Dr. Tony McNeill, conference co-musician: There are people who will experience God in the music. That’s where they meet God, in the music versus in the prayers or in the sermon or in the benediction. … For those people, it’s important that the music that you present has the integrity and the justice language, the sense of community and all of the characteristics of God that can be named and seen and experienced and heard.

Dr. Tony McNeill leads the congregation in singing at the 2023 PAM Worship & Music Conference. (Photo by Katherine Kupar, Presbyterian Association of Musicians)

The Rev. Kendra Buckwalter Smith, conference liturgist: The text of Matthew 25 is so much about encountering Christ in unexpected places, in unexpected people — how do we allow the faces of the people around us to become the face of Christ or to reveal to us the face of Christ? And then how do we seek to engage that, engage Christ and the other, engage that relationship? And I think that’s what can start to lead to opportunities to expand the breadth of our worship experience and our engagement.

Click the video above to hear more from the PAM worship leaders. Click here to see all videos from the Worship & Music Conference.

Rich Copley is a multimedia producer for the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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