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Jubilate! celebrates 30 years of worship and the arts

By Diane Walker

Jubilate!, a regional festival and retreat of worship and the arts, is celebrating 30 years of activities and service to the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church.  The first Jubilate! was held in July 1979 at  Whitworth College in Spokane.  

The mission was, and still is, to renew and engender worship ideas for the local church while celebrating fellowship in the spirit of God’s hospitality. 

This celebration returns to its Spokane roots this summer as it holds its 30th Festival and Retreat July 20-25 at the Immaculate Heart Retreat Center.

Jubilate! originated when the 1978 Worship Section of the Pacific Northwest  Annual Conference  Board of Discipleship looked for ways to stimulate the arts in worship in the Conference.  Larry Warren, then of Spokane, Trisha Butts of Lewiston and Tom Richardson of Moscow designed the first summer workshop. 

Initially Jubilate! was patterned after the Choir School at Epworth Forest in Warsaw, Ind.  Rather than being just a choir activity, this labor of volunteer energy became the seed for a broadly-based, internationally known program in the worship arts. 

Tom Richardson was the first choir director and has continued his involvement ever since as participant, keynoter, board member, dean and advisor as well as choir director for 16 years, Tom’s 30-year perspective allows him to reflect on the group’s evolution. 

“Our initial goal was to model inspiring worship. In doing so we discovered that we ended up modeling a unique Christian community and serving a cross section of common interests,” he said.

The United Methodist Conference Board of Discipleship and the founders espoused worship emanating from theological roots.  This desire for stimulating worship and theological integrity combined with a belief in the power of the arts in liturgy guided the format and personnel for the yearly summer festival and retreat.   

A conference-wide community has evolved over the years and it widened further in 1994 when it became the Northwest Chapter of The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts (FUMMWA).

In addition, Jubilate! developed international people-to-people tours, district events and specialized retreats that have touched lives at home and in developing countries around the world.

Jubilate! has led three tours to Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Zimbabwe.

“We are particularly proud of being one of three U.S. choirs invited in 1994 to sing at the dedication of Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe,” continued Tom.  “Our gift to them was $30,000 and, with this, the establishment of a special endowment to fund a music faculty chair. We continue to raise money toward this goal.  We also enjoy working with the Africa University choir directors and sharing their music, both there and here in the Northwest.” 

This global music exposure has been enhanced and shared through the nine international tours since their inception in 1986.  

When asked to comment on the significance of Jubilate!, Tom said, “We are accessible, small, manageable and regional.  If you are interested in worship arts, where do you go to discover more skills and understanding?  The summer festival is a place to go and find some building blocks and find yourself refreshed at the same time.  We attempt to get like-energies together and see what happens.  It has always been fun to explore possibilities. We’re an adult church camp!” 

This year’s summer fdestival offers workshops and experiences in “Congregational Singing,” “Visuals and Beyond,” “Dancing Prayers/ Psalms and Seasons,” “Scripture” “Taizé,” “Handbells” and “Worship Planning and Coordination” along with daily worship events. 

Tom will return to lead the community-wide choir and the theme “Passionate Worship – Thirty Years of Joy!” will shape the week. 

For information, visit www.gbgm-umc.org/Jubilate!/ or call 425-641-8177.