Last year’s conference of the Association of Diocesan Liturgy and Music Commissions (ADLMC), in Bloomington, Minnesota, close to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport, had a relatively small attendance, but the business meetings were certainly lively. We had much to talk about.
With over one hundred attendees in some years, registration fees could pay travel expenses, registration and honoraria for the keynote speaker and several presenters. Those days appear to be over.
The 2000 conference was originally scheduled to be held at Kanuga in beautiful western North Carolina, but the staff at Kanuga could not meet ADLMC’s requirements, hence the return to Minnesota.
In heated discussions over the years, and with various resolutions, one faction had virtually demanded the comforts of a pretty good hotel in a hub city, while others preferred less expensive board and lodging at a conference center, usually out of town.
Developments reached a critical point last year. The prospect of a lower attendance meant either an early decision to increase the registration fee to a point of diminishing returns, or reducing the number of those paid to attend as speakers or workshop leaders, the chosen solution. The problem with having no guest speakers is that there is then even less incentive for folks to attend. No figures have been released yet, but it was expected that the recent conference would be a moneyloser, as there were fewer than fifty registrants.
There are several reasons why numbers have been falling at ADLMC’s annual meetings, including:
- Return visits to dioceses that have previously hosted meetings. One of the joys of earlier meetings is that we would be invited to different dioceses, especially ones where there was an opportunity to meet Episcopalians who were glad to hear the word about the 1979 prayer book.
- The disbanding of liturgy and music commissions in some dioceses as the 1979 prayer book became better known and more widely used.
- Increasing expense, especially when the conferences are held in hotel space.
- Less willingness by some bishops and dioceses to fund travel to attend conferences in these days of list-serves and other “virtual” conferences.
Increasingly, those attending the conferences have been individual members with an abiding passion for liturgy, and fewer and fewer attendees accredited as representatives of their dioceses. Meantime, at the Executive Committee’s 2000 meeting in Dallas, a new vision emerged. The newsletter which followed treated the Executive Committee conclusions as a fait accompli. One paragraph read:
This is a new organization now with a new purpose. This calls for a new name. It is “Transforming Common Worship.” The Executive Committee will now become the Council.
The change was symbolized in the newsletter’s letterhead, with “ADLMC” shown in faded type and the new name imprinted on top of it. Underneath that were the words “Formerly The Association of Diocesan Liturgy and Music Commissions.” The President became Convenor. Under the heading New Name...New Look...New Vision... was a clearly-worded mission statement:
We are called to be Christ’s body in the world– a people of justice and truth created in baptism and held in lifegiving relationship by our baptismal promises a feasting and rejoicing community gathered around the table to be nurtured and transformed by Word and Sacrament We are the Church. The mission of Transforming Common Worship is to embody this vision and equip the church to fulfill it. Our ministry is to create for those with a passion for worship a safe context for dialogue, collaboration and mutual encouragement through annual gatherings curriculum development electronic and print communications consultation teams grassroots efforts
There isn’t very much in this with which any active member of Associated Parishes would wish to disagree. However, it does make one wonder whether we need two parallel organizations to accomplish similar goals.
When the changes were discussed (at great length) at the conference in November, there were many voices. The main criticism of the Executive Committee was that it had taken decisions beyond its assigned role, and that the exciting new vision should first have been brought to the conference, with all the necessary planning to make proper changes in the organization’s bylaws. The chief concern about the new mission statement was that it seemed to leave very little place for diocesan commissions. While the point that there were fewer and fewer dioceses sending representation was well taken, nevertheless there were a number of folk present whose way was being paid by their diocese; to them, and to those whose dioceses had not seen fit to furnish funding, it seemed important to retain that aspect of ADLMC’s previous life.
After a good night’s rest, a sensible conclusion was reached on the last full day. The Executive Committee agreed to do some further thinking at its forthcoming meeting and to bring back specific recommendations, notified in advance, to the 2001 conference. Many apologies were made and accepted graciously, and the conference then voted overwhelmingly in favor of a motion of confidence in the actions of the Executive Committee.
On a personal note, having attended twenty-five consecutive annual conferences, I should be greatly distressed if they should come to an end; and I pray that those we have charged with the responsibility of resolving the organization’s problems will find the inspiration to continue these annual gatherings in some form or other.
Following the winter meeting of the Executive Committee, a newsletter was published and the website updated. Plans are underway for ADLMC/TCW to meet jointly with the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music over the weekend of November 9-11 and then to continue with its own meeting until the following Tuesday.