The Hymn Society Is at Berkeley July 13-17

July 11, 2008

The annual conference of The Hymn Society in the United States and Canada will be held in Berkeley July 13-17. The Hymn Society is an ecumenical, international organization purpose of which is the promotion of congregational song, the voice of the people in corporate worship. The Society’s annual conference, held in a different North American location every year, is its principal method of education and outreach. After its 86 years of existence, the Hymn Society is finally coming to a venue located within the boundaries of the California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church!

The Berkeley conference theme is “Congregational Song and the Arts: Gifts for Worship and Ministry.” This a theme that resonates with those who celebrated and experienced the arts in our ministries at the Annual Conference Session just concluded. The arts of poetry, visuals, dance, architecture, and a variety of musical forms will be explored in their relationship to worship and ministry. Indeed, the first event of the conference will be a liturgical arts fair on Sunday afternoon.

Among the leaders and presenters at the Hymn Society conference will be a number of pastors and church members from our California-Nevada UMCs. These include Pamela Abbey, Karen Oliveto, Dan Damon, Eileen Johnson, Gerald Asheim, Eun-Joo Myung, Kang Lee and the choir from Oakland Korean UMC. Others are from the faculties of the seminaries of our ecumenical partners in the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley: American Baptist Seminary of the West, Church Divinity School of the Pacific, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary, and Pacific School of Religion. The Hymn Society headquarters resides at a United Methodist seminary, Boston University School of Theology, where our Executive Director, Carl Daw – himself a prolific hymnwriter – is a member of the faculty. 

Everyone is invited to the Berkeley conference. You will fit right in with the typical conference population of pastors, musicians, teachers, worship planners, hymnwriters, composers, publishers, seminary professors, organists, creators, users, singers, lovers of hymns, and persons who simply are interested in those facets of hymnody and how people make them happen.

At my first Hymn Society conference I most remember seeing on people’s name tags the same names that I saw at the bottom of the pages in my hymnal, and getting to meet them. This can be your experience, too! If you sing “Here I Am, Lord,” meet and sing with Dan Schutte (who, you’ll find, has written many more hymns). If you appreciate Ruth Duck’s work in expanding the language of worship, take her class in Berkeley. If a greater interdenominational and interfaith awareness is your goal, take workshops on multicultural worship and enjoy Hymn Festivals celebrating African American sacred song and Hispanic liturgical music, or sing Orthodox hymns and Buddhist chants. For the opportunity to sing newly published hymns alongside their writers and composers, or to sing the Lord’s song in a new land or a new language – go to the Berkeley conference.

The full conference schedule is displayed on the website Registration is available for the full conference and by the day. All the Sunday afternoon events and all the evening Hymn Festivals, each on a different theme and held in a different historic Berkeley church, are free and open to the public. 

Sing with us in Berkeley! The Local Committee welcomes email inquiries at