Mississippi Conference on Church Music and Liturgy

Participants at the Mississippi Conference on Church Music and Liturgy

There are some things that I do regularly which I believe makes me a better person. I meditate, pray, and read the Bible each morning to renew my relationship with God. I work out at least three times a week to strengthen my body. I practice the organ almost daily to reinforce what my feet and fingers are to do when I approach the keyboard on Sunday. And I see my doctor for a yearly physical to make sure everything is working like it should.

It’s for these same reasons that I return to the Mississippi Conference on Church Music and Liturgy every year. I find my relationship with God renewed and strengthened through the worship services that engage my intellect and heart as well as my musical and liturgical needs. My musical muscles are stretched and challenged by the music we learn and rehearse under the expert hand of the clinicians who come each year. I can experience different ways of worship that lead me to see new ways in which I can expand my ministries. And my own spirit is renewed as I let the Holy Spirit move in me. It is indeed both a spiritual and musical week for me.

This year’s theme was “A Common Story, a Shared Journey, a Sacred Meal: Maintaining Liturgical Integrity in a Time of Crisis and Transition.” The daily worship services were designed by each person serving on the faculty and board. These were as rich and as varied as the worship traditions of each individual. The Rt. Rev. Joe Burnett led us through the process of adapting the 1979 Book of Common Prayer in light of recent talk of a new revision. The choral clinicians were Thom Pavlechko of St. Martin’s Lutheran Church in Austin and Jeff McLelland of Independent Presbyterian Church in Birmingham. In addition to being a wonderful composer of choral music, Thom is choral editor of Liturgical Music for the Revised Common Lectionary, and he brought a wealth of knowledge of choral literature and its appropriate place in the Liturgical Calendar. He also shared his creative service music, including the St. Martin Psalter, published by St. James Music Press. Jeff has been a part of this conference for years, first as an attendee, then for many years as accompanist. This was his first year to act as conductor, and his sense of humor and knowledge of the conference only magnified his expertise as a choral conductor.

The dates for next year’s conference are July 25-30, 2017. Watch for more information at the conference website.


Jackson Hearn is Organist and Choirmaster at the Church of the Good Shepherd, Kingswood, Texas.