Conference Reflects on the Role of Contemporary Music in Worship

Worship Band at 2015 Steubenville East Conference (photo courtesy of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston via Flickr)
Worship Band at 2015 Steubenville East Conference (photo courtesy of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston via Flickr)

by Olivia Colombo


On October 20, Catholic musicians from the Archdiocese of Boston and surrounding areas gathered for the first annual Catholic Conference on Contemporary Worship (CCCW) at St. Mary of the Assumption in Dedham. Put on by musicians from the forefront of Catholic praise and worship in New England, the full-day conference aimed to foster community amongst worship leaders. It also aimed to equip beginners and seasoned musicians with skills for using music to elevate the experiences of Adoration and Mass.

Musicians, music directors, priests, and lovers of praise and worship from six states gathered Saturday morning in St. Mary’s Hall. They started off the day with prayer and a worship session lead by the conference presenters, including Collin McBride, Jon Niven, Mike Drahos, Mike McDuffee, Brandon and Christen Fitts, and Angelique Bolduc, members of Delmore Worship and LIFT Ministries, two Boston worship groups. Fr. Matt Williams, chaplain of LIFT Ministries and pastor in Quincy, gave the opening keynote, which addressed the goal of worship and how music can help achieve that goal.


Fr. Williams concluded, “We were made for worship. Worship is an offering of our minds, hearts, bodies, and entire self as a sacrifice of praise to our Lord. Worship brings us to this place of intimate communion, holy communion, where we can rest in Him. It is from that holy place that the presider says ‘Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”


Throughout the day, conference participants had the opportunity to attend workshops with Fr. Williams, Fr. Wayne Belschener of St. Mary’s, and the musician presenters. These workshops provided an opportunity to hear their stories, learn practical information about contemporary worship, and ask questions. There was an emphasis on networking and passing on advice to expand the community of local worship leaders. Breakout sessions included instrument-specific workshops and sessions addressing the worship leader’s role in liturgy, how to run an Adoration service, and spiritual preparation for leading worship. 

One mantra in ministry is, “You can’t give what you don’t have,” said Fr. Williams. In his keynote, he focused on the need for one to be spiritually fed in order to lead others fruitfully. In a “mentor meet-up” toward the end of the day, participants were able to ask Drahos, McBride, and McDuffee questions about music ministry and how to support one’s own ministry with personal prayer. Mickayla Hagar, a youth minister and worship leader from Hingham, affirmed, “What stood out to me the most about the conference was the emphasis placed on the importance of one’s own spiritual life and relationship with the Lord as being crucial to lead others into their own personal relationship with Him through praise and worship.”


The conference concluded with a night of Adoration led by LIFT Ministries and Fr. Ryan Rooney, a vocalist and priest from the Diocese of Springfield. The night before the conference, the young adult Catholic group “JESUS aCROSS the Border” led a more “unplugged” worship service, but Saturday evening was a prayerful and charged opportunity for worship with the band and a talk by Fr. Rooney. Lovers of Catholic music surrounded the monstrance in Adoration on their knees, creating harmonies and intimate prayer through song, after a long day of growth and community.


Hagar concluded, “The CCCW was a prayerfully planned and very informative conference for anyone seeking to learn more about what is necessary to lead others in worship.”


The dates for the 2019 conference are soon to be released.


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