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Quarterly Newsletter

September 2022

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Letter from the Outgoing Board President

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Eric Wall



As we come the end of this summer, I’m feeling pretty grateful for PAM: our conference, our board, our office staff, our membership and its work. You’ll read all about that work in this newsletter. One of the takeaways from our recent PAM Board meeting is this: at the end of a third pandemic summer, PAM is stronger than ever—again, this newsletter will tell you why. Thanks be to God.


I’ve been listening to a favorite piece: “Shaker Loops” by John Adams. It’s an early Adams work, a 1978 composition for string orchestra. There are fantastic “loops” of oscillating patterns and rhythms, which are one aspect of “shaking”; the composer is also captivated by the imagined ritual energies and vibrations of Shaker worship. In these past few years, all of us have vibrated with energy and quivered with fear. Like violin strings, we have strained, felt ourselves go out of tune, and waited for the Holy One to turn the pegs of our souls, rosin the bows of our courage, and tune our hearts to sing God’s grace.


As I think about PAM’s pandemic journey, it seems to find an echo in this Adams piece. Find a recording, listen, and see what you think. I’m imagining the bustling first movement as somehow evocative of PAM’s beginnings and unfoldings, its pre-pandemic culminations. Is the languorous second movement an echo of the life of prayer? Perhaps—but I also hear in it something of the near-stoppage of motion we felt in mid-March/early April of 2020.


Then I think of all of you: your refusal to stay in that place, your commitment to PAM and its mission, your energies and gifts and prayers, your various ways of showing up, your damn-the-torpedoes plunge forward in that 2020 spring, your fist-shaking love-grip on this organization. I think of that and listen to Adams’ third movement, and well—this music says it all.


The fourth movement of “Shaker Loops” is transcendence itself; listening, we recognize having been brought to a moment, and even so, this celestial music sprints forward. I think the Spirit has brought PAM to a movement and moment like this, where beauties and echoing energies and crossroads enfold us. Like this music, I think PAM is sprinting forward, out of a past and within a present and into a future, like the church. Transformed and being transformed. Re-formed and being re-formed. To turn, turn will be our delight, till by turning, turning, we come round right.


Your PAM Board is hard at work for these journeys. Karrie Rushing and Anne Wilson rotate off the Board this month, and we’re thankful for their great service and wisdom. In addition, this is my last letter as PAM President, and it’s been a joy and privilege to serve you. Mark Kemp is the new President, and I join you in gratitude for the great gifts he brings to this work and to this time. Be in prayer for him, our wonderful PAM Board, our PAM office staff, and for one another. Thanks for all you do for PAM, for your own churches, and for the whole church. Peace be among us.




Letter from the Incoming Board President

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Mark Kemp

Dear PAM Members,

It is an incredible honor to serve as the President of the PAM Board, following the selfless work of Eric Wall. PAM has benefited from his leadership in ways that seemingly never come to view. We also give thanks for the work of Anne Wilson and Karrie Rushing, as they complete their terms as Board Members. I am sure they were not anticipating the work that met them over the last three years!

And speaking of that work, PAM has reached a new day in service to its members and the church. With the creation of PAM Regions, inclusion of members on standing committees, and interest sessions presented by PAM members at conferences, PAM is working from within! Our membership includes years and years of collective ministry, creative programming, and pedagogical wisdom. We look forward to learning from one another in new ways, and finding that our expertise comes from within!

PAM is also looking beyond our current membership to perspectives and traditions that have not always been included in our conversations. We will go beyond simply including music from other traditions in our work and worship, to learning from those who are a part of those traditions. And as the musical palette of PAM expands, so, too, will the canvas that we recognize as colleagues and collaborators.

Friends, not only is there a place for you in PAM, but there is an opportunity to share the ways your ministry can help others, bringing us all a step closer to God’s new creation.

Peace for today,

Mark Kemp

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Incoming Board Pres
ED Report

Report from the Executive Director

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Kelly Abraham

To know Dana Mitchell was to know her wide-eyed enthusiasm, brilliant smile, amazing leadership, warm hospitality, delightful sense of humor, and of course, her deep love and devotion to the Presbyterian Association of Musicians’ Worship & Music Conference.


For 28 years, Dana served as the conference administrator and received an honorary lifetime membership in 2018.  “The legacy [Dana] created at Montreat is one that will long be remembered by those of us privileged to work with [her] there,” said Kathleen Healy-Wedsworth, PAM President,1994-96.

Dana passed away on February 21, 2021. In June, PAM dedicated the 2021 Worship & Music Conference to her memory. As PAM’s Event Coordinator, Lisa Myers said in Dana’s tribute video, “We were so fortunate to be the beneficiary of Dana’s love and devotion to the organization. Her bright smile is missed.”

This month the Presbyterian Association of Musicians became the beneficiaries of more than $360,000 from the estate of Dana Mitchell.


Prior to her death, Dana had a deep, personal desire to include small churches in PAM-sponsored national and regional events and was working to set up a gift to the 50th Anniversary Campaign that would provide scholarships for the worship leaders of those churches.


Small churches are now the majority of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). So, it is fitting that Dana has requested that her gift to PAM be designated to establish two funds:

  1. The Robert E. Stigall Fund for the small church at the Worship & Music Conferences at Montreat. The fund will support one or more faculty members to address the musical needs of small churches. 

  2. The Ann H. Stigall Adult Scholarship Fund to provide scholarships for conference registration and two-thirds of lodging and meals to adults from small churches.

The generous gift allows for PAM to invest the donation for permanent retainment and use the annual earnings from the investment to support the faculty position(s) and fund adult scholarships. 

Executive Director, Kelly Abraham said, “As Dana served on PAM’s Thankful Hearts and Voices Raise 50th Anniversary campaign committee, it is fitting that her generous gift fulfills multiple goals of the campaign which includes annual stipends for multiple conference faculty persons and scholarships to provide housing and registration scholarships, resulting in a goal to slow increases in participant registration fees.” Her gift creates an immediate impact on the organization and its members, by providing opportunities for multiple adults from small churches to participate annually in the Worship & Music Conference.


Dana spent countless years in service to PAM as the Worship and Music Conference Administrator, and the ripples from the lives she influenced as a result reach far and wide. Current PAM President and 2014 Conference Director Mark Kemp remembers Dana as “supporting, encouraging, and constantly drawing out the best from each person she had the opportunity to know and love during those summer days. Her gift continues to encourage every member of PAM and brings out the best we have to offer in service to our God.”

View the press release here. 

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Dana Mitchell

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From Development

From the Development Committee


Save the Date!

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With My Whole Heart: Singing Together as One


Sign-up for an engaging course that will encourage healthy, vibrant, spirited congregational singing! This special event is for everyone: church musicians, choir members, church leaders, congregation members—anyone who can “make a joyful noise to the Lord.”


Taught by the Rev’d John Allen Bankson, Director of Music Ministries at the First Christian Church of Birmingham, each week’s class will feature a guest organist from the Birmingham area. This is a joint event of the First Christian Church of Birmingham and the Presbyterian Association of Musicians, Mid-South Region.


This exciting six-week journey will culminate with a Hymn Festival led by the Rev’d David Gambrell, Associate for Worship in the Office of Theology and Worship of the Presbyterian Church (USA).


The class will be offered both in person and online.

Location: First Christian Church; 4954 Valleydale Road; Birmingham AL 35242

Dates: September 11–October 16 (Sundays)

Times: 2-4 pm Central

Hymn Festival: October 23, 3:00 pm

In person: $15 
Online: $15


Registration closes September 8.

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In August PAM launched two more Regions, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.


The Mid-Atlantic Region includes North Carolina, Virginia, (except National Capital Presbytery), and Shenandoah Presbytery.

The Northeast Region includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont.

To get involved in launching these two new Regions, contact Kelly Abraham at

New Regions!

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August Board Meeting Highlights


At its stated meeting on August 2-3, 2022, the Board of Directors of PAM met in person as a combined group of the outgoing, ongoing, and newly elected directors.

Highlights from the meeting:

  • The PAM Certification process has been streamlined and simplified. This follows an extensive review of the existing process and levels.

  • The Board agreed that PAM should become a Matthew 25 organization, authorizing incoming Board president Mark Kemp to sign the agreement with the PC(USA). In addition, the task force to Amplify Diversity in Sacred Music would be changed to a standing committee: the Committee on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. There will be more information on this committee coming soon.

  • The Worship and Music Conference was reviewed, including the evaluations that were submitted by participants. The Board agreed that a hybrid conference should be offered for at least one more year.

  • The Board reviewed the PAM regions established so far:

Kathy Tallent—Mid-South

Patricia Martinez-Miller—South Pacific

Jennifer Jones—South Central

Janet Langhorst—Great Lakes

Paul Sanner—East

Mandy Keathley—South Atlantic / Puerto Rico

Nicky Manlove – Rocky Mountain Region

  • The Board agreed to continue PAM’s partnerships with the St. Olaf Conference on Worship, Theology, and the Arts.

  • As the meeting wrapped up after two long days of business, incoming President Mark Kemp recognized Eric Wall for his service on the Board for 4 years, the last two as President. He also thanked Anne Wilson and Karrie Rushing for their service, and he presented tokens of appreciation to all three. The Board echoed Mark’s sentiments of gratitude.

Committee Chairs for 2022-23 

Amplifying Diversity in Sacred Music (now Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion) - Eric Wall/Colleen Chinen

Awards and Scholarship - Brian Lew 

Certification Committee - David Brinson

Communications - Skip Yingling

Connecting Committee - Adam Ward

Development - Bill Davis

Educational Resources - Kaitlyn Davros

Finance - Eric Vandermeyden

First Call Pastors - Mark Kemp

Governance - Kristen Foyles

Nominating Committee - Emily Floyd  

View the Board of Directors here. 

View the Advisory Board here. 

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2023 Worship & Music Conference


In the gospel of John a Samaritan woman goes to the well for refreshment and has a life changing encounter with Jesus. Similarly we gather at Montreat each year for refreshment, renewal and relaxation, drawing from the metaphorical well that is the Worship & Music Conference, a well overflowing with wisdom and knowledge.

Mark your calendar for Week 1 June 18-23 and Week 2 June 25-30. 


2022 Conference Report

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The theme, inspired by Genesis 1, Matthew 25, and the Celtic Rune of Hospitality, was originally adopted in response to the Presbyterian Church’s historical connection to Celtic spirituality, and for the PC(USA)’s ongoing Matthew 25 initiative.  The conference logo [please use the log in conjunction with this article], or rather representational artwork, skillfully and sensitively conceived by Martha Kelly distilled the theme and captured what we were hoping to convey: inclusion and unqualified goodness. 

Statistics show that nearly half of LGBTQ+ teens seriously consider suicide every year.  Transgender and nonbinary kids have considered it more often than that.  These youth are not inherently prone to suicide risk because of their gender identity, but rather because of how they are treated and stigmatized in society.  Over and over throughout the two weeks of the conference and since then in posts and emails, conferees from all communities both marginalized and mainstream movingly communicated their deep appreciation for being seen, many experiencing this in a “religious” setting for the first time. Others pointed to the theme and logo as what drew them to the conference with the hope of finding a welcoming and safe place.  The messages of Genesis, Matthew, the Rune and the logo were communicated and heard with broader significance than we could have imagined. 

A great strength of the conference was the integration of the theme throughout worship and all classes. In order to encourage such integration, conference artists and dance faculty were included into worship planning meetings once the initial scriptures and themes had been chosen for the services, and basic outlines constructed for them. After the liturgies were developed, unabridged versions were shared with all instructing faculty. As a result, the faculty across the board worked to develop their class content and repertoire selections in consonance with and in support of the overarching theme.


This year, we asked attendees to come to the conference prepared to give back to the local community by bringing new socks to be presented as an offertory in worship – responding to Jesus’s teaching “I was naked and you clothed me.” The offering was presented in worship each Thursday, and yielded six industrial sized garbage bags and three smaller garbage bags worth of socks.  The full offering was donated to Swannanoa Christian Ministry in Black Mountain for distribution to the area’s homeless and at-risk population. 

Lauren Artess in her book, Walking a Sacred Path, Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice (Penguin 1995, 2006), says this: “We understand that we are part of a divine order.  The revelation of the Divine is unfolding through us—not simply as truth from on high, but in physical form, in conjunction with all forms of life.  Seeing and creating from this whole perspective is the foundation of the new paradigm that we must embrace to survive in the twenty-first century.”  The PAM 2022 Worship and Music Conference at Montreat endeavored to embrace this new paradigm with the hope that our conference and organization will continue to walk with confidence and humility into this new era. 

Krista Wright and Marlon Hurst

2022 Worship and Music Conference Co-directors 

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First Annual Beer & Hymns

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