Day 1: The North American Academy of Liturgy 2020 #NAAL2020

Day 1: The North American Academy of Liturgy 2020 #NAAL2020 January 3, 2020

This week I’m in Atlanta for the North American Acadamy of Liturgy’s Annual Meeting (NAAL2020). I thought I’d give you some highlights. I’ll keep you updated live VIA twitter as well at

The Catholic Academy of Liturgy (CAL) Meeting

Susan Reynolds shared a much-needed look at the complexity of the sexual abuse crisis. It was sobering but very helpful. Here are a few key takeaways. 
  • We need to look at the crisis through the lens of the intersectionality of power symmetries
  • It’s bigger than just the power differential between the laity and clergy
  • So often the victims are those at the margins of society. Minorities, children of single mothers, undocumented, etc
  • Clericalism and the sexual abuse crisis is not a reality formed in a vacuum but is a symptom of the failure of the Church; both clergy and laity; to take seriously the preferential option for the poor
  • We must move from anger to discernment and ask difficult questions. Questions like who remains unheard when we attempt to look at the abuse crisis without looking at those who suffer because they have multiple dimensions of marginality and vulnerability
  • We must not allow issues of multiculturalism to become an accessory to the abuse conversation but must be given center stage.

Continuing to explore the theme of abuse in the Church Brian Flanagan asked us to view the coinherence of sinfulness and sanctity in the Church as a reality that is embodied in the liturgy. Here are some highlights:

  • Confession of sins in the liturgy is probably the only time many participants offer a confession of sins at all. Similarly, the Our Father, unveils the sinfulness of all participants, as we ask for forgiveness.
  • The liturgy is a dance. We step back in confession and God draws us back through repentance. Our movement isn’t uniform We receive grace and we rejected it
  • Our confession of a Holy Church in the Creed is not a declaration of disembodied entity apart from our personal and corporate failures
  • To call the Church Holy is a declaration of faith that in spite of the many serious failures which bring darkness and discord; holiness will continue to emerge and is, in fact, the dominant theme that God is working in us and through us.

The Emerging Scholars Meeting

I was privileged to be on the planning committee for this weeting this year. We handled some great topics ranging from the gifts that our international participants both offer and receive and some great thoughts about publication. For me, a particular highlight was the wisdom of  Lester Ruth his experience in publishing offered such a helpful lens.

I also led a session talking about the future of the emerging scholars’ meeting and a discussion on areas of concern. Here are some of the big questions emerging scholas in the field of liturgy said they were dealing with:

  • How can we make the subject matter that we teach work in the real-life and practice of students
  • How can we foster a liturgical worldview among the broader church
  • How can we develop our careers in such a way that we have a particular focus (i.e. Taft was known for Byzantine Liturgy; Bradshaw is a ‘splitter’ etc.)
  • How can we move beyond the work of our dissertation into something new
  • We need to hear more experienced scholars tell us the stories of struggle and success as we wrestle with feelings of despair when trying to find jobs after the PhD

The Opening Address

After a beautiful opening ceremony we were challenged by Gennifer Brooks in her powerful address. Here are some highlights:

  • Wisdom is dependent on the Holy Spirit
  • acquiring wisdom is rooted in living in the spaces where wisdom invites us to live. Rooted in God’s spirit; wisdom invites us to the margins; where God dwells.
  • knowledge only can become wisdom when it moves from bolstering the hegemony of oppressors to enlivening possibilities among the beloved children of God who have been eclipsed by the ideologies of exclusion and domination
  • She challenged us in the academy to take stock of the real needs of those in our community. Liturgy should give substance to a faith that is lived out; faith in the God who meets us on the cross. Worship structured on anything else is not enlivened by God’s Spirit.
  • Liturgy’s work is nothing less than to transform the world. It is a work not done by those in the academy alone but by all those who come broken to God with hope to find bread for the journey. As members of the academy we must use our privilege to open the door to the margins.


I’m looking forward to digging into my seminar of emerging worship this morning as we begin Day 2!

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