by Ken Joblin

The first weekend in October saw Catholics converge on Christchurch for a music ministry conference. Earlier this year, Christchurch diocese was offered some formation from its own Catholic Youth Team (CYT). Catholics involved in school and parish music were invited to register for Exalt, a weekend of music workshops, time for Mass, adoration, along with free-form worship. Feedback was positive from six of the conference participants.

CYT music and ministry coordinator Jessica Bond said: “It was overwhelming to have such a strong response nationally, and the gathering of 100 people from all around New Zealand felt like the beginning of something which will only continue to grow.” Miss Bond went on to explain that “having Joe Zambon, a Canadian Catholic singer-songwriter attend as the key speaker was a particular blessing as he shared his gift of music, as well as insight into music and liturgy, song-writing and living life as a worshipper, among other relevant topics”.

Participants were asked for their personal highlight or key insight from a weekend that, along with Joe Zambon, treated them to quality workshops on a range of topics from leading worship and sound-mixing to liturgy preparation and event planning.

It was difficult to restrict these participants to just one point. Joanna Casey, who sings alto in the Kolbe Singers and who also sings in Christchurch and New Zealand national youth choirs said “I gained a new appreciation for the beauty of the Church’s music and its ability to bring us closer to God. Whether you are singing in a choir, or leading the band, it is important to do your part and do it with your heart in the right place”.

Catholic Discipleship College formation and household leader Dr Cameron Surrey said his highlight was “experiencing an evening of contemporary-style worship, followed by night prayer sung in Gregorian chant”. Dr Surrey, who is also a liturgical guitarist, added “the psalm singing session was very useful, with genuine humour”.

Thomas Saywell, a youth worker for Christchurch diocese and the MC at Exalt, said “all had something to learn from each other”.

“Just seeing people from different dioceses sharing their gifts in the discussions taking place at free times was among the highlights,” he said.

Not all participants claimed to be musically gifted, but still gained much from Exalt. One shy respondent, who did not wish to be named, stated that “those who were there experienced a wide range and depth of music, from Hillsong praise, traditional hymns, contemporary  writings and Latin”. She commented on the beauty of the Mass celebrated on the Saturday (October 1) for the feast of St Therese of Lisieux. “We were honoured to hear the first public homily of one of our newly ordained deacons, Alister Castillo. His contribution was a real blessing as he brought in the image of the orchestra in speaking of the Church’s gifts.”

Stella Brennan, a young Catholic from Mt Maunganui, said “not being a ‘muso’ myself, the times of worship were the best; not surprisingly, having so many great musicians in one place”.

Feedback also indicated that those at Exalt really enjoyed the Q&A session where Joe Zambon was joined by CYT’s Delbert Castillo, diocese administrator Fr Rick Loughnan and Christchurch diocese sacred music co-ordinator Ken Joblin.

The Q&A panel agreed that the best songs are those that stand the test of time. For Dr Surrey, the message from the conference was clear: “That music is given to glorify God, to sanctify us and to take the Gospel to the world.”

– Ken Joblin is sacred music coordinator for Christchurch diocese.

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