ILS 2024 Plenaries & Seminars

Plenary Sessions

Benjamin Dueholm

Benjamin J. Dueholm, M.Div. From Commodity to Content: Accessing Community and Grace in a Disembodied World Wednesday, April 10, 9 a.m. Location: Harre Union, Ballrooms B and C

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the migration of social, economic, and political life in the United States into virtual and social media environments. Even where they resisted this trend, churches have not been immune to it, and it shows no signs of reversing. Has the nature of communal worship been transformed, and if so how? Will worship flourish, wither, or both if it is transformed into disembodied “content”?

Speaker Bio:
Rev. Benjamin J. Dueholm serves as pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in University Park, Texas. His writing on faith, culture, and politics has appeared in the Christian Century, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Dallas Morning News, Newsweek, Aeon, and many other publications, as well as in his personal newsletter, He is the author of Sacred Signposts: Words, Water, and Other Acts of Resistance (Eerdmans, 2018).

Sarah Kathleen Johnson

Sarah Kathleen Johnson, Ph.D. Occasional Religious Practice in a Consumer Culture Wednesday, April 10, 2:30 p.m. Location: Harre Union, Ballrooms B and C

Sarah Kathleen Johnson’s scholarship brings the techniques of ethnography – participant observation and interview

Many people are occasionally religious: they attend religious services occasionally rather than
routinely and usually do so in connection with specific types of occasions, such as holidays, life
transitions, and times of crisis. In this keynote, Johnson draws on three years of qualitative research in
the Anglican Diocese of Toronto to introduce her concept of occasional religious practice and explore
its implications in the context of consumer culture. Who are occasional practitioners? Why do they
attend on these occasions? What can routine practitioners learn from occasional practitioners about
Christian worship?

Speaker Bio:
Sarah Kathleen Johnson is Assistant Professor of Liturgy and Pastoral Theology at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, Canada. She is a practical theologian who studies Christian worship in the context of a changing North American religious landscape. Her research at the intersection of liturgical studies and sociology of religion employs qualitative methods that value everyday religious experience. Commitments to interrogating the relationship between liturgy and ethics and engaging ecumenically across Christian traditions ground her research, teaching, and church leadership. Dr. Johnson is ordained for ministry in Mennonite Church Canada. She currently serves as the president of the Canadian Theological Society.

Mark Roosien

Fr. Mark Roosien “Let Us be Attentive!” Liturgical Time and Market Time in an Age of Catastrophe Thursday, April 11, 9:45 a.m. Location: Harre Union, Ballrooms B and C

The catastrophic upheavals of recent years have coincided with a global rise in the use of smart technologies that shape our sense of time, separating each moment into bite-sized units used by market forces to exploit and monetize our attention. How might the liturgy alternatively shape worshippers’ attention to authentically engage a suffering world? This lecture explores the thick rhythms of liturgical time in Eastern Orthodox Christianity as embodied in Orthodox Action, a group formed by Eastern European émigrés that sought to combine social action with robust liturgical life on the eve of another global upheaval: World War II.

Speaker Bio:
Fr. Mark Roosien is a priest in the Orthodox Church in America and scholar of Eastern Christian liturgy and theology. He received his PhD in Theology from the University of Notre Dame and is currently Lecturer in Liturgical Studies at Yale Divinity School and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music. His monograph, Ritual and Earthquakes in Constantinople: Liturgy, Ecology, and Empire is forthcoming with Cambridge University Press. In addition to his interests in liturgy, ecology, and early Christianity, Fr. Mark translates and writes on modern Russian-language theology, especially the works of 20th- century Orthodox theologian Sergius Bulgakov.

Pre-Meeting Seminars

Deanna Witkowski

Deanna Witkowski How to Integrate Jazz in Worship (Even if You Aren’t a Jazz Musician) Tuesday, April 9, 1 p.m. Location: Helge Center, Room 122

Whether or not you are a jazz player, you will walk away from this seminar with resources that you can immediately use in worship services. In the first half, we will sing as Deanna shares lead sheets and fully notated piano scores from her catalog of jazz hymn arrangements, prayer responses, psalms, and Mass settings. In the second half, Deanna will demonstrate basic improvisation exercises and how to reharmonize a simple melody with just two unexpected chords. Visit to read testimonials from musicians who have participated in Deanna’s workshops.

Speaker Bio:
Known for her adventurous, engaging music that heals the soul, pianist-composer-vocalist Deanna Witkowski moves with remarkable ease between Brazilian, jazz, classical, and sacred music. Dedicated to bringing communities together through jazz, Witkowski has worked as a guest music leader in more than one hundred churches. Her YouTube series, “Off the Page: Sacred Jazz,” shares practical resources for church musicians and her jazz hymn arrangements as found on her recording, Makes the Heart to Sing: Jazz Hymns, have been purchased by over 500 churches. Her first book, Mary Lou Williams: Music For The Soul (Liturgical Press, 2021), is the winner of the 2022 Jazz Journalists Association Award for Biography of the Year.

Daniel Kantor

Daniel Kantor My Church Needs a Brand Strategy Tuesday, April 9, 1 p.m. Location: Harre Union, Heritage Room

Daniel Kantor is the Principal and Creative Director of Kantor Group, which he founded in 1995 after developing his brand strategy experience on the client side. As Director of Marketing for Coda Music Software (now MakeMusic), Kantor was the brand marketing vision behind the development, naming and launch of Finale, a music publishing software platform that became an instant hit and world standard. Kantor group has helped a number of church communities hone their brand to share their story more effectively. Kantor group had a significant role in the design of Evangelical Lutheran Worship.

John Nunes, Ph.D.

Rev. Dr. Travis Scholl

Travis Scholl ’96, Ph.D.

Anticipating God’s Voice Amid the Noise

Tuesday, April 9, 1 p.m.
Location: Harre Union, Alumni Room

Karl Barth famously exhorted preachers to proclaim with the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. But how does this work in a world of smart phones, incessantly revolving news cycles, and a biblically post-literate culture? Travis and John will guide participants, as a cohort of practitioners, to explore creative ways that preaching opens opportunities for the preacher and the hearer to be formed by the ways the Spirit is speaking in our time amid the cacophony of consumer culture.

Speaker Bio:
Rev. John Nunes, Ph.D., a Lutheran pastor since 1991, currently serves at Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Santa Monica, California. In 2022, he was appointed a Senior Fellow for the Center for Religion, Culture, and Democracy. Previously, he has served as the president of Concordia College-New York and the President and CEO of Lutheran World Relief. Born in Montego Jamaica, raised in Canada, John has lived in the U.S. since 1981. His diverse experience ranges from holding an endowed professorship at Valparaiso University to leading inner-city ministries in Dallas, Texas and Detroit, Michigan.
John is a graduate of Concordia University, Ann Arbor MI (BA), Concordia Seminary, St Catharines, ON, Canada (MDiv), and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (ThM and PhD). He also has three honorary doctorates.

Rev. Travis Scholl is director of mission integration at Lutheran Senior Services in St. Louis, MO. Previously, he served Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, as managing editor of theological publications, where he continues as a guest instructor in practical theology. He holds a PhD in English and creative writing from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and is a graduate of Yale Divinity School and Valparaiso University. The author of Walking the Labyrinth, his most recent essays and poems have appeared in Essay Daily, After the Art, Fourth Genre, and Saint Katherine Review.

Dr. Rhoda Schuler

Rhoda Schuler, Ph.D.

Dr. Kent Burreson

Kent J. Burreson, Ph.D.

Adult Faith Formation: A Prophetic Challenge to Religious Consumerism

Tuesday, April 9, 1 p.m.
Location: Helge Center, Room 122

A consumer culture challenges the church on two fronts. From within, an “attractional” pattern for outreach has commodified the church and its message. From without, the marketplace is recognizing the spiritual void in our secular culture and is pitching its wares with promises to provide “a sense of identity, purpose, meaning, and community” (Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, 131, 107).
We are convinced that robust adult faith formation practices and rich rituals are a prophetic challenge to these internal and external issues. This seminar will offer background material on adult faith formation, facilitate small group studies and discussions, and lead participants through experiential learning on ritual.

Speaker Bio:
Dr. Rhoda Schuler is professor emerita at Concordia University – St. Paul, having served as full-time faculty in the Department of Theology (fall 2008 fall 2020). She is a deaconess in the LCMS, holds a ThD from Luther Seminary and an MA in Liturgical Studies from St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota. Her love of liturgy dates to her undergraduate days at VU.

She and Kent Burreson have been researching the adult catechumenate in Lutheran congregations since 2018. Both are members of the North American Academy of Liturgy. Journal to Jesus is the working title of their forthcoming book.

Rev. Kent J. Burreson is Louis A. Fincke and Anna B. Shine Professor of Systematic Theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri, teaching courses in systematic theology and worship. A graduate of the Notre Dame doctoral program in liturgical studies, he has a strong interest in the development and theological meaning of liturgical practice throughout church history, especially that of Christian Initiation. A member of NAAL and Societas Liturgica, he served on the ILS Advisory Council from 2010-2017. He and his wife, Cindy, reside in St. Peters, MO and have two adult daughters and one son-in-law.

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