Perchance to dream.
It’s what Emily Hope Morgan and Mark Smith do.
Morgan and Smith are the founders and facilitators of Dream PC(USA), a Twitter-based prayer movement born out of the 220th General Assembly (2012). Both attended the Presbyterian Association of Musicians' (PAM) Worship and Music Conference — held at Montreat Conference Center June 23-28 — for the first time, seeking not only a break from the rigors of their seminary studies but inspiration for their current ministries.
Smith, a 20-year veteran of the IT industry, is a rising senior at Princeton Theological Seminary. Morgan, a 2013 PTS graduate, is seeking a call to ministry while serving as social media and marketing coordinator at Worship Times, which makes websites for ministries, including the Presbyterian Youth Triennium 2013.
“Since I’ve been very deeply involved in worship planning and worship leadership, I wanted to come to a place that was the wider church,” Morgan said. “I wanted to spend some time with people who were music directors and artists and pastors from a variety of places.”
Because the essential characteristics of effective liturgical language and hymnody also inform and inhabit the social media landscape, Morgan and Smith found no shortage of inspiration for their work and worship.
“I came home with my head full of ideas for creative worship and music with Watchung Avenue Presbyterian (North Plainfield, N.J.), my field education placement,” Smith wrote in an email reflecting on the conference.
Appropriately, the conference’s signature hymn was “Dream On, Dream On” from the new Presbyterian hymnal, Glory to God, which served as the basis for several of the duo’s tweets throughout the week.
On June 27, Morgan tweeted, “Our opening sentences come to us from the hymn, ‘Dream On, Dream On,’ which will be in new #pcusa hymnal Glory to God. ‘Dream on, dream on, children of peace; till on earth God’s kingdom come.’”
For Morgan, dreaming of Montreat also included the removal of financial barriers. “I am grateful for the scholarship I received,” she said. “If I didn’t have somebody to help me with the financial aspects of getting here, I wouldn’t have been able to come.”
William McConnell, executive director of PAM — which sponsors and programs the two annual weeks of identical conferences at Montreat as well as an annual conference at Mo-Ranch — emphasized the ongoing importance of offering scholarships in order to make the conferences more inclusive.
“Christ’s table is open to all, regardless of gender, age, social class, musical ability or worship style preference,” said McConnell. “We are glad to be able to offer scholarships to individuals who seek creative ways to engage in worship, even if they or their churches are financially unable to assist them in being here.”
In an effort to reach out specifically to seminaries and seminarians, PAM designed and implemented a pilot program in 2013 called the Worship Fellows. This year, two worship fellows from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary attended the Montreat conference, shadowing leaders and taking classes to get a sense of what the conference offers to the larger church and to learn from doing worship.
“We believe that it’s important for seminary students to understand the nuts and bolts of putting together worship and the thought and planning that underpins what we do,” McConnell said.
Morgan also benefitted from these “nuts and bolts” sessions.
“I learned the behind-the-scenes thoughtfulness of liturgical dancers, and through singing some of the new songs from Glory to God, I realized how it will assist my church’s worship,” she wrote in an email. “(New Jersey’s) Plainsboro Presbyterian Church (where I am a member and under care for ordination) has native speakers of several languages, all of which are included in Glory to God.”
While it was PAM that provided Morgan with her “full ride” to the conference, it was Smith who offered her an actual ride as part of his carpool from New Jersey.
Smith, who is manager of the Princeton Ringers, a choir of PTS and Princeton University, had several reasons for attending the conference.
“When my committee on preparation for ministry saw that all of my field education requirements would be fulfilled without my having to do any additional placements this summer, they suggested I might want to take the summer off,” said Smith. “So I decided to make it a summer of conferences. I’m doing Worship and Music, then Triennium, then Big Tent.”
Big Tent — the PC(USA)’s biennial celebration to be held in Louisville Aug. 1-3 — will not only reunite the Dream PCUSA team but will also find Morgan represented in the leadership of the Presbyterian Communicators Network Conference.
Morgan will join Derrick Weston for a panel to be moderated by Carol Howard Merritt entitled “Social Media Roundtable: A Dynamic Discussion of Emerging Technologies and Their Effect on the Lives of Modern Christians.”
“I hope to share my experiences using social media to highlight how relationships have been planted and grown,” said Morgan, “and also to imagine together how social media can be used most faithfully in ministry.”
Registration for the 2014 Conferences on Worship and Music opens on November 15. Visit the PAM website for more information.