News October 2022 Perspective Online

World Council of Churches

Marcell Silva Steuernagel at Worldwide WCC Gathering in Germany

While Marcell Silva Steuernagel has significant experience in culturally diverse worship, he had never attempted to sing Samoan worship music or to chant in Coptic before. But the chance to try both for the first time came when he served on the team leading worship and music at the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches.

The gathering drew some 4,000 people from virtually every major Christian tradition or denomination to Karlsruhe, Germany, from August 31– September 8, 2022. Held every eight years, this year’s Assembly had the theme “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.”

“I was part of an international group of musicians from many difference places — Scotland, Argentina, Egypt, among others,” said Silva Steuernagel, who is Assistant Professor of Church Music and Director of Perkins’ Sacred Music Programs. His involvement ranged from leading the assembly in song and prayer to playing guitar and playing percussion. The WCC worship team was led by Swee Hong Lim, who directs the Master of Sacred Music (MSM) program at the University of Toronto.

Evelyn L. Parker, Perkins professor emeritus, was also at the gathering, as a representative of her home denomination, the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church. Parker was elected to the central committee in 2006 and helped guide the planning for the Tenth Assembly of the WCC held in Busan, South Korea, in 2013. She again was elected to the WCC’s 150-person central committee, which serves as the main decision-making body of the WCC between assemblies.

Participating in the worship leadership team was “a huge privilege,” Silva Steuernagel said. “This gathering only happens every eight years, so not many people get a chance to help lead the worship.”

The worship team had to master dozens of songs in a short period; in working with an international group of musicians, Silva Steuernagel added, there was much that could’ve gone wrong. “There are cultural assumptions around music making,” he said. “Germans have different cultural expectations than Polynesians, for example, about time management and organizing rehearsals. We had our differences and we worked them out. I made some really good friends as a result. Making music together does that.”

The assembly highlighted issues related to climate change and creation care. German President  Frank-Walter Steinmeier was present for the opening ceremonies.

“You had Roman Catholic cardinals walking around and Greek Orthodox bishops playing foosball,” he said. “I felt very privileged to represent Perkins at such a level.”

Founded in 1948, the WCC brings together churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 120 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 580 million Christians and including most of the world’s Orthodox churches, many Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, as well as United and Independent churches. While most of the WCC’s founding churches were European and North American, today most member churches are in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East and the Pacific. There are now 352 member churches. The WCC serves as a unique space where member churches can reflect, speak, act, worship and work together.

“The most important thing about the WCC is that it still exists and hasn’t imploded after 70 years,” Silva Steuernagel said. “Churches are still willing to send delegates to discuss issues and to see if they can find common ground.