‘We spent the last year literally and figuratively walking on the sidewalk avoiding each other’

PAM president, executive director and conference preacher reflect on the past  year

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

PAM President Eric Wall, center, is interviewed in the Worship and Music Conference newsroom by Kaitlyn Davros, at left, and Will Breytspraak. (Screenshot)

LOUISVILLE — “Just being here, being here together is what I’m most looking forward to,” said Eric Wall.

This week the president of the Presbyterian Association of Musicians is at Montreat Conference Center for PAM’s Worship and Music Conference, which includes both in-person and online participants.

“It’s so striking to me,” he said. “We spent the past year literally and figuratively walking on the sidewalk avoiding each other.”

An assistant professor of Sacred Music and Dean of the Chapel at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Wall was interviewed in the conference newsroom by Kaitlyn Davros and Will Breytspraak for those joining the conference online.

“This hybrid piece is unusual, cool, and full of life,” Wall said. “It’s gratifying to see how PAM adapted last year and is keeping on being nimble, with imagination and creativity.”

Kelly Abraham

Kelly Abraham, executive director of PAM, also talked with Davros and Breytspraak about this week’s hybrid conference, which has 400 in-person and 300 online participants.

According to Abraham, PAM has never been busier, with conversations occurring around the country. She called it an exciting time for the organization, which has carved out time to think about what church members need.

“We’ve had the faith to pause and think about what we’re doing well, what we should be doing better, and what we should not be doing,” she said.

In a year of thinking about ways to expand its reach, PAM is starting up new regions. The South Central Region, which includes Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, has been launched. The Southern Pacific Region, including California, Hawaii and Nevada, will launch next year.

“Those two regions alone have vastly different needs in terms of congregations and music and worship styles,” Abraham said. “What we do here at Montreat is very different than what they do in California.”

How have you been a witness since the storm on the Capitol?

 During Tuesday morning worship, the Rev. Cecelia (Ce Ce) Armstrong, the conference preacher and the associate pastor at St. James Presbyterian Church in Charleston, South Carolina, continued to encourage those present to be a witness for Jesus Christ in word and deed.

“How is it that you were a witness when George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and countless others were killed?” she asked.  “Since the storm on the Capitol, how have you been a witness?”

the Rev. CeCe Armstrong (Screenshot)

Preaching from Revelation 1:4b-8, Armstrong said too often we say things to ourselves to keep us from doing what God is asking us to do, which is to proclaim — and then stand on — the blessings of God.

Then she listed many of the promises God offers us.

“All things are possible. You can do all things through Christ,” she said. “God says, ‘Come to me and I will give you rest. Cast your care on me.  I will direct your path, supply your needs. I’m not giving a spirit of fear.’”

Because the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is Reformed and always reforming, Armstrong challenged worshipers to praise God with their very breath and to revise how they live.

“God works with us,” she said, “so that we may all live in collective community. So spread the good news of God’s blessing and take the opportunity to be a witness in the name of the one who created you in the first place.”

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