Greetings from Montreat!

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This week I’m writing to you all from the beautiful mountains of Mon-treat, North Carolina. This year’s theme of the Music and Worship Conference is “Not as the world gives.” But the bigger theme of the week emphasizes the way we express peace in the world. I am joined here with Melynn Young, Steve Richards, and Robin Atiyeh. All of us are taking eight different classes each day. All of our classes are different and have different leaders from around the country leading us in song, worship and education.

So my schedule looks like this: 8 AM Drumming Out Loud, 9 AM Prayer for Listening and Prophetic Preaching, 10 AM The Holy Land Today: Understanding the Palestinian and Israeli conflict, 11 AM worship (We have worship every morning at this same time throughout the week. Each worship service has a different theme). 12:30 PM is our lunch break, 1:30 PM Worship Reflections, 2:30 PM singing in the adult choir, 3:30 PM participating in the Art Workshop and learning how to make banners, 4:30 PM Preaching Today, Which is led by Roger Nishioka who is the pastor for the conference this week.

So if that sounds like a lot, it is. But I can say it’s well worth it. There is so much to take in, so many new relationships being formed, so much joy being in the presence of other Presbyterians who are struggling with many of the same issues we face in our congregation today. I am excited for you to see some of what we have learned and will be eager for you to hear from the others as they share their experience at Montreat with you.

As I’m writing this to you, it has only been a day or two, but that being said, I am really looking forward to the next few days of this conference. I don’t want to give too much away but today’s worship service was extremely powerful. There really wasn’t a dry eye in Anderson Auditorium and the thread of today’s worship was: Peace is not the absence of pain, but the compassion of presence. What I think moved me the most about this service was, from beginning to end, the music that they chose, along with the liturgy that was written which flowed seamlessly with the message proclaimed and that thread continued all the way to the benediction and concluded with the postlude.

When I think about my role as pastor and helping to lead worship. I really think about putting together an hour’s worth of time from beginning to end. It begins with the prelude and ends with the postlude. It is a seamless movement of hymns, music, and words, that move us to a deeper love and relationship with God. Today, for many of us who participated in the worship here, we couldn’t help but feel that thread running through the worship that led us closer to God.

As we continue to grow together in our expression of worship at Northminster, I hope that you will be open to new ideas and ways in which we can worship together using new language, different types of prayers, body movement, drama, art, dance, etc. These are just some of the ways in which we have experienced in worship here. And I know that I am excited to share with you what I have learned and I am sure that Melynn, Steve, and Robin will be excited to share with you as well.

Here’s wishing you all a very blessed rest of the week!

Blessings Rev. Elise Renee Neal

PS: Please keep us in your prayers as we will be traveling home this weekend. I will be returning to the office Wednesday, June 26.