1983 AACS Summer Conferences
The B.C. Lower Mainland conference report was written by David Dykstra. The Alberta report was gleaned from “Bits and Bytes, ” whose editors prefer to remain anonymous. Niagara report by Kathy Vanderkloet
“… and the rains came down and the floods came up” and a lot of people got thoroughly soaked on the first night of the Ontario Niagara conference, as the longest summer dry spell in years came to an end on the Civic Holiday weekend at the end of July. That didn't deter conferees or speakers, however, we carried on with a weekend full of activities ranging from two keynote lectures and numerous workshops to songfests, a talent night, worship services with both adult and children' s choirs, and the annual Fellowship Fair with its ever-popular volleyball tournament.
Dr. Bernard Zylstra, President of the AACS, gave two keynote addresses on “Restoring a Responsible Society.” He focussed on the crisis of the welfare state, outlining the signs of the crisis (inflation, unemployment, bankruptcies, government deficits), describing interpretations and solutions offered by both socialism and capitalism, and concluding with a Christian approach which emphasizes the responsibility of humankind – individually and institutionally – to act in obedience before the Lord.
Workshops dealt with specific aspects of, or results of, the crisis of the welfare state and included “Why Poverty in the Midst of Plenty,” “Choosing Appropriate Technology,” “Life After Pogey,” “Everyone Can Play Politics,” “Education, Re-education and the Job Market,” “Will there be Work for our Children?” “Financial Planning: Who needs it?” “Risking Communitee: Responding to the love crisis,” “Canadian Agriculture needs the Welfare Economy?” and “Stewardship under Pressure: Business in a recession.”
Across the country, the Skeena/Bulkley Valley conference was underway in British Columbia on the same weekend. Dr. Sidney Greidanus, professor at The Kings College in Edmonton, was keynote speaker in a conference which focused on the topic “Human Rights.”
The Alberta conference took place on the very wet labour Day weekend at Gull Lake. Dr. Harry Cook, professor of biology at The Kings College, addressed the gathering with the keynote lecture entitled “Technology: Friend or Foe.” He first described technology as being both applied science and a complete system of thought or a mindset He then spoke of three major areas of concern with respect to technological advancement medical ethics, the impact of technology on the labour force, and the nuclear problem. Neither the response of the technocrats, who wholeheartedly approve of technological progress, nor of the utopians, who deplore technological advance and insist that technology is incapable of solving its own problems, is very helpful, Cook found. The Christian is asked to “walk discerningly, and to constantly test the spirits in the light of the Scriptures.” Cook admitted that we're only just beginning to evaluate technological change from a Christian perspective.
Workshops all dealt with related topics and included “Medical Technology and Ethics,” “Nuclear Technology and the Arms Race,” “Technology, Energy and the Environment,” “Computers and Education,” “Women and Technology,” and “Chemicals in Agriculture.” There was also a discussion for teens on video games.
In addition to the lectures and workshops, conferees were treated to a spontaneous talent night, two Sunday worship services, a potluck supper, songfest and the humorous daily newsletters, “Bits and Bytes: the Nuts and Bolts of the 1983 AACS Conference.”
Also held on the labour Day weekend was the B.C. Lower Mainland Conference, centering around the broad theme “When in Our Music God is Glorified.” More specifically, we examined how music has functioned in the past in our worship services, and how it could possibly continue to play a role today. This task was headed by Dr. Emily Brink, who delivered two lectures entitled “Music in Liturgy ‘ and “Music for Liturgy.” Dr. Brink is currently the music editor of the Christian Reformed churches in North America.
It stands to reason that the conferees spent considerable time enthusiastically singing paying special attention to the songs in the Psalter Hymnal Sampler, which serves as one more step toward the compilation of the new Christian Reformed Psalter Hymnal. Another major highlight of the conference was the participation of contemporary Christian songwriter/performer James Ward, who led a workshop on the use of contemporary music forms for worship and also gave a concert Since there were just as many children as adults present, special effort was made to ensure that they were not overlooked Frank DeVries led a workshop dealing with the inclusion of children in worship services; our Sunday evening service was completely led by children and teenagers.
For those ambitious enough to get out of bed by 7 a.m. there was a morning bible study on the book of Psalms led by Jack Graham. This year the conference organizers also tried something different with the experimental ” Midnight Warble and Twitter” on Saturday and Sunday nights, a talent-sharing time when people presented poetry and music they had written or composed, or displayed their performing talents on various instruments.
The Welfare State, Human Rights, Technology, Music and Liturgy — once again the summer conferences covered a very broad range of topics. No, all the world's problems were not solved, and its questions remained unanswered. If anything, we learned that often the problems are so complex that solutions and answers simply don't exist within our limited human frame of reference. But we were challenged to remain alert, to “walk discerningly and test the spirits in the light of Scripture,” to remain faithful and obedient — with God's help — to His Word. That is certainly the kind of refreshment we as Christians need from time to time.