General Convention worship will feature five joint services, a variety of styles and voices

By Melodie Woerman
Posted May 29, 2024

[Episcopal News Service] Official worship during the six legislative days of the 81st General Convention during its June 23-28 meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, will feature three joint services of the Holy Eucharist and two Morning Prayer services, as well as Morning Prayer in the meeting spaces of the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops on June 27.

“Our worship is the heartbeat of our convention, a time when we are drawn into the presence of God as one united family,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said, in a preface to the worship services booklet. He added, “We eagerly anticipate the blessings and transformations that will unfold as we worship God during our time together. May the Holy Spirit move among us, empowering us to live out the theme of our gathering — Together in Love.”

All the joint services will take place from 8:30 – 11 a.m. Eastern in the ballroom at the Kentucky International Convention Center, where other General Convention activities also will occur.

Eleven people had four months to plan the worship services, the Rev. Ann Hallisey, chair of the General Convention worship team and canon to the presiding bishop for ministry within The Episcopal Church told Episcopal News Service.

With a short timeline, she said they decided not to be “wild and creative” but to focus on simplicity, sourcing the Book of Common Prayer for a variety of authorized options reflecting the inclusive nature of The Episcopal Church. The five joint services will be offered in the three official languages of The Episcopal Church – English, Spanish and French.

The Eucharist on Sunday, June 23, will feature an Expansive Language version of Rite II that was authorized for trial use by the 2018 General Convention. Kentucky Bishop Terry White will preside, and House of Deputies President Julia Ayala Harris will preach.

On Wednesday, June 26, the service, La Santa Eucaristía, will be in Spanish with some English elements. The Rev. Connie Sanchez, canon to the ordinary in the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras, will preside, and the preacher will be the Rev. Yejide Peters Pietersen, associate dean and director of formation at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale University.

The final Eucharist, on Friday, June 28, will feature language from Enriching Our Worship 1. Curry will preside, and the presiding bishop-elect will preach. The presiding bishop election is scheduled for June 26.

Morning Prayer services on June 24 and 25 will follow the Rite II service in the Prayer Book and include a variety of hymns and other music.

Planners chose hymns and music from authorized Episcopal Church resources and from other globe resources. During the June 28 Eucharist, the work of civil rights leader James Weldon Johnson will be honored by singing the hymn for which he wrote the lyrics, Lift Every Voice and Sing.

A band and a piano will provide instrumental accompaniment, Hallisey said.

She added that two members of the worship committee – musicians Dent Davidson, a lecturer in music at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, California, and the Rev. Lester Mackenzie, rector of St. Mary’s Church in Laguna Beach, California and chaplain to the House of Deputies – will invite people to be part of a community choir, with a few rehearsal times announced in advance.

Mackenzie told ENS he hopes the music used throughout General Convention services not only celebrates the breadth of the church’s diversity but also  leaves worshipers having experienced or learned something new.

One combined worship booklet is available for all five joint services, and each one also can be downloaded separately. All are available in PDF format online on the General Convention worship page. Worshipers are encouraged to download worship bulletins to their mobile devices, but they also will be projected on screens during the services.

All the bread used during the Eucharists will be gluten-free, thanks to a gift of Communion wafers from the CM Almy company.

The worship services are open to anyone with a convention credential, and others wishing to attend can do so by registering ahead of time.

—Melodie Woerman is a freelance reporter based in Kansas.