Like Mary MacKillop, Amy Armstrong saw a need in her diocese of Dunedin and did something about it.

Jam session organiser Amy Armstrong.
Jam session organiser Amy Armstrong.

Ms Armstrong, originally from St Paul, Wisconsin, became aware that many of the faithful felt there could be “better” music in liturgies.
Ms Armstrong is the pastoral leader for the laity in the diocese.
She saw that better music fitted in with her task of “formation, outreach and growth”.
Not being one to dither, she immediately began to organise a “Jam for Advent” session in Gore for October 17. The idea was for those involved in parish and school music liturgy to get together and learn new songs and ideas for Advent.
This was not the first session of its type. Ms Armstrong organised a previous session in Dunedin last July. This proved to be popular, so for this one, she decided to move the venue; in this case, the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Gore.
Although the purpose was to point the way to injecting new vigour into Church liturgies, it was a happy occasion. There was singing, laughter, and sharing of a lot of music, as well as talking about copyright and other issues that come up with planning music liturgies.
Enthusing people to embrace the liturgies of the Church “can be a tough and lonely job,” Ms Armstrong said. “But so many expressed gratitude to be able come together to share ideas and insights.”
The session attracted 22 people from Invercargill, Gore, Lawrence, Balclutha, and Dunedin.
Maureen Smith, a parishioner at Holy Name parish in Dunedin who holds qualifications in theology and music, also spoke to the group. Ms Smith had just recently returned from the “Songs for the Journey” music liturgy conference
in Brisbane.
Ms Armstrong said that connecting with each other to share ideas is always helpful, whether locally or internationally. “We specifically talked about using local [New Zealand and Australian] music and adapting to the culture of our parish (rural, urban, small, large, equipped with musicians or not). It was a good time sharing our experiences and wisdom from our individual situations.”
She also expressed special thanks to Gore parish for its “gracious hospitality”.
Ms Armstrong said another jam session is planned for next year.


  1. I recently had a similar idea for my parish in Texas. I would love to hear more about this or get in contact with Amy to ask questions. I see that this was written in 2015. How have the Jam sessions progressed since then?