South hosts national gathering of Salvation Army worship leaders

By: Brad Rowland

In late January, worship leaders gathered at the inaugural North American Worship Leader’s Conference hosted by the Southern Territory. Representatives from each of the four United States territories, as well as the Canada and Bermuda Territory, attended the event Jan. 24-27 in Atlanta, Georgia, and the gathering included six general sessions, all captained by a different voice and in a different style.

The backdrop of the conference was the importance of equipping leaders for worship in various forms, with focus on Isaiah 25:1, which reads (in The Voice translation): Eternal One, You are my God. I will lift You up and praise Your name. Because You have made wonders marvelous and beautiful — the most ancient designs holding strong and sure.

Randy Bonifield joined the conference as a musical guest, with inspiring speakers present throughout the event. Lt. Colonel Allan Hofer challenged those in the conference’s final meeting, providing an appropriate charge to send leaders back to their ministry positions and shepherding a time of spiritual re-dedication.

One conference highlight stemmed from unexpected circumstance, as Southern Territorial Headquarters lost power for a short period of time during the conference’s second session on Friday morning. The session was led by the Central Territory and plans were in the works for a “stripped down” setting featuring acoustic instrumentation, which proved to be prescient.

“It was awesome,” said Joshua Powell, territorial contemporary worship specialist. “From the beginning, we wanted that session to be focused on an acoustic setting, with every instrument used and everybody joining together … At one point, the power came back on, and it was almost like it was a warmth that arrived to support what was already happening naturally. It was a very cool moment that I won’t soon forget.”

The conference also included something of an impromptu songwriters forum, with those in attendance gathering organically and sharing original material. Lyricists were given the opportunity to garner feedback and a collaborative atmosphere provided for significant growth potential.

While the conference was the first of its kind, there are hopes to continue its existence on a bi-annual basis, with the potential to rotate hosting duties between the five territories.

“It was a powerful time of worship,” Powell said. “The teaching was impactful. The conference was centered on worship leading, but it also focused on worship in general – what worship is, what it means to us in our lives, how it is a response to how God has made us. It goes beyond singing and musical worship, and that theme permeated the entire weekend.”

“The conference was a fantastic experience to be a part of,” said Jon Avery, territorial multimedia ministries editor and worship leader at the Atlanta Temple Corps. “It’s really encouraging to see so many Salvationists from across North America so passionate about leading others in worship and ushering their congregations into the presence of God. I left the weekend not only with amazing resources and techniques to practically improve the worship at my corps, but also a greater understanding of my responsibility as a worship leader – knowing God and making him known.”