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‘Living, Dying, Rising’ conference leader spotlight: Abby King-Kaiser

Campus minister and artist will coordinate and lead worship for 2017 national gathering

by Emily Enders Odom | Presbyterian News Service

Abby King-Kaiser. (Photo provided)

LOUISVILLE – The Rev. Abby King-Kaiser, associate director of the Dorothy Day Center for Faith and Justice at Xavier University in Cincinnati, will serve as worship leader and coordinator for “Living, Dying, Rising,” the 2017 national gathering for 1001 New Worshiping Communities.

“Living, Dying, Rising” will be held Aug. 7–10 at the TradeWinds Island Grand Resort in St. Pete Beach, Florida. The 2017 national gathering will outline the story of the life of Christ and the life of the church.

After graduating from seminary at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California, King-Kaiser served as pastor of a small, urban congregation in Oakland, California, before moving back to her hometown of Cincinnati to work at Xavier. In seminary, she interned with Mission Bay Community Church in San Francisco while it was a new church development. Three years ago, she started an ecumenical new worshiping community at Xavier.

King-Kaiser is delighted that her role at Xavier allows her to work with and learn from students from a wide variety of traditions and backgrounds and is creating more spaces on campus where they can build community across difference. Always an artist, King-Kaiser says her favorite form of social media is Instagram (@revabbykk). She also regularly blogs for Presbyterians Today.

King-Kaiser recently shared with the Presbyterian News Service her excitement about being a part of the 1001 New Worshiping Communities initiative and its 2017 national gathering.

PNS: What will you preach, teach, or present at the “Living, Dying, Rising” conference?

AKK: I am delighted to help coordinate worship! It is a unique opportunity to build a narrative of worship that reflects Jesus’ journey and our journey with him. I bring visual art experience, and am enthusiastic about working with Pete Feltman, an amazing and versatile musician. Since we have already seen God show up in the planning process, I can’t wait to see how God works when we bring hundreds of conference attendees together to worship, not just as listeners or consumers, but as co-creators, as artists — even those who don’t see themselves that way.

PNS: Why are the theme and the content of this national gathering important for today’s church?

AKK: My first call was as the last pastor of a church that I walked with as they discerned that closing and living into resurrection was their most faithful choice. My second call, where I still serve, is as a campus minister, where I worked with students to start an ecumenical, Protestant worship service on a Jesuit Catholic campus. Having served at both ends of the church life cycle, I have lived this cycle of living, dying and rising in my first few years of ministry. God has shown up in my life and the lives of my community in unbelievable and unpredictable ways, when we have been patient enough to walk through the whole cycle. Every church in our denomination, and in the body of Christ, can find themselves in this story.

 Starting a worshiping community keenly aware of how worshipping communities die and are resurrected has transformed my ministry. I hope that this conference is a chance for that to happen for more of our communities and ministers.

PNS: What in your own personal, professional, and/or pastoral experience drew you to the leadership of this conference?

AKK: I was an art major as an undergraduate, drawn to ministry because of a passion for community building. I don’t come from a family of pastors, but I do come from a family of artists and teachers. This is a unique opportunity for me to share this part of myself with the wider church.

‘Self-portrait of an artist (Toes Only)’ from an annual project King-Kaiser does on campus where she works with every incoming first-year student (1,100–1,200 people) to make a large-scale art piece. (Photo by Abby King-Kaiser)

PNS: What features are unique to this conference?

AKK: Worship throughout the conference will invite us all to walk together to the cross, through the tomb, and into resurrection as a community. Taking Jesus’ call to take up the cross seriously, worship will be the work of the people, as throughout the week, there will be invitations to create, lift up, sing in a choir, share a song, and encounter God. Whether formally assembled in rows or walking on the beach, we will work together to build spaces for exploration of Scripture, using our imaginations, and moving from worship into the world with God. We will live, die, and rise together in our liturgies.

We hope that everyone will return home inspired by worship where they encountered God, but also where they were challenged. I am excited by the planning committee’s desire to try new things, and to provide resources and ideas for people to take to their home communities. I hope that this week of worship is not confined to these few days together, but carries a legacy into our communities as we mutually inform, lift up, liberate, and inspire one another in praise of and witness to the amazing work of God around us.

PNS: What’s one thing you want each person who attends this conference to come away with, to share, or to implement in his or her daily life? 

AKK: I would love if everyone went home with one new practice that deepens their spiritual life, or the spiritual life of their community. I don’t care what it is—it will be different things for different people. A way of breathing. A way of storytelling. A way of engaging nature. A way of making art or music or prayer. But I do hope that our worship together provides a variety of practices so that everyone finds themselves in the gathering body, but also so that everyone has practices to take home.

For complete information and to register online, visit the national gathering website.

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