2017 National Worship Conference

Conference registration is open!


June 13-16, 2017
Carthage College ∗ Kenosha, WI

Regional Site
Irvine, CA (Orange County) – June 27-30

Singers and Instrumentalists

Interested in participating in the Festival Choir or orchestra? Applications are now available. Learn more below.

Children’s Choir and Honor Choir applications are also being accepted. The deadline to apply has been extended to April 3. Read more.

The worship conferences offer “something for everyone.” They are not only for pastors and musicians.
Opportunities at the main conference include:

  • 50+ presentations
  • Concerts and recitals
  • Plenary address: “A Reformation Perspective on Worship” by Pastor Michael Schultz, Director of the WELS Hymnal Project
  • 125 voice Festival Choir (with full orchestra) directed by Kermit Moldenhauer and Dale Witte
  • 125 voice high school Honor Choir (with full orchestra) directed by Jon Laabs
  • 65 voice children’s choir directed by Kurt Cereske
  • Applications for Festival Choir and instrumentalists are now available. Applications for Children’s Choir and Honor choir will be available early December
  • Registration is now open.

The worship conference is an excellent opportunity for inspiration and professional growth. Congregations are encouraged to set aside funds in their budgetary planning so that key people are able to attend.

Kenosha, WI registration options and rates.

  • On-campus: air conditioned dorm room $395
  • On-campus: standard dorm room, no AC $360
  • Off-campus: commuters $285

Irvine, CA options and rates.

  • On-campus: standard dorm room, no AC $295
  • Off-campus: commuters $200

On-campus registration includes all meals, Tues dinner to Friday lunch.
Off-campus registration includes lunches and dinners.

A limited number of air conditioned dorm rooms are available to those who register early.
Since the campus is right on Lake Michigan, evenings tend to cool down nicely.

Full time student rates, available also for those who have just graduated in 2017, are approximately half price.

Highlights from past worship conferences – including presentations, photos, service folders, and audio samples are available on the Worship Resource Center. Professionally recorded musical highlights are available at Northwestern Publishing House.

Check back for more info in the future. We hope you’ll be able to participate. We again expect over 1000 people at the main Carthage site.

Please display a conference poster in your church and school.


Kenosha, WI              June 13-16, Carthage College – main event
Irvine, CA                    June 27-30


The primary reason for the Carthage event being earlier than usual is far less competition for air conditioned dorms, cafeteria, and meeting spaces – especially large spaces. (A recital hall that we used in 2002 and earlier was not available to us in 2014.) Mid June is also likely to be more pleasant weather than mid July! Even without the satellite site, the earlier Carthage dates provide advantages. The earlier dates also make it possible to schedule the satellite event.

The Irvine site, using the campus of Concordia University-Irvine with the option of dormitory lodging, is only 6 miles from the John Wayne Airport (Orange County).

The satellite site is not only for residents of the Arizona-California District. It is for anyone from any state for whom the dates work, especially if they cannot attend the Kenosha conference.

All sites offer a wealth of opportunities for interesting vacation time before or after the conference.

Print a conference poster to share with your church or school.


Both conferences will feature five Reformation-themed services which can be adapted for parish use later in the year for celebrations of the 500th anniversary. These services feature newly commissioned texts and music from fifteen composers and poets. The plan for daily worship follows.

Wednesday morning
Opening Service – Reformation Festival featuring the liturgical rite created for the new WELS hymnal (release planned for the early 2020s). The service includes a new a concertato on “A Mighty Fortress” with brass sextet and four percussion instruments.

Wednesday evening
A service of Confession and Absolution – focusing on the principal teachings espoused in the 95 Theses. The Psalmody section features three of Luther’s psalm paraphrases: Psalm 12 (O Lord, Look Down from Heaven), Psalm 124 (If God Had Not Been on Our Side), and Psalm 130 (From Depths of Woe) for congregation, choirs, piano, and other instruments.

Thursday morning
All Saints Day – a reconstructed service based on Luther’s two revisions of the historic Mass, the Formula Missae and the Deutsche Messe. A new hymn focuses on the realities, trials, blessings, and effects of Christian martyrdom in our modern world. The text reflects the spirit of Luther’s first hymn (1523) written in response to the martyrdom of two young confessors in Brussels.

Thursday evening
Ascension Vespers – including Luther’s great musical legacy. One newly composed canticle is based on the Song of Simeon combined with the hymn “Lord, Let at Last Your Angels Come.”

Friday morning
Pentecost – a contemporary service of Word and Prayer with several new settings of Luther hymns, including a new tune and setting of “Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord.”


2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation anniversary. There is no WELS youth rally in 2017. So the Commission on Worship decided to offer smaller satellite conferences in addition to the main conference in Kenosha, WI.

  • Over half of the worship conference attendees are, as expected, from the WELS heartland – the three districts that cover parts of Wisconsin.
  • At the 2014 conference, outlying districts along the coasts and in the south sent 117 people (registered adults, not counting participants in children’s choir or honor choir.) Attendance from outlying districts has declined at the last three conferences.
  • Less than half of attendees are pastors or teachers. Drawing interested lay people will boost both attendance and positive outcomes “back home”. The workshop topics offered will draw interested lay people as well as pastors and musicians. Some will focus on worship in small churches.
  • “Critical mass”: a strong level of musical vigor from congregation and instruments makes for thrilling worship at the sonic/energy level. In the right setting, with brass/organ/timpani (and other instruments), this can happen with 200 people as well as 1000. The “worship inspiration factor” will not be missing at the smaller conference.
  • If 400 people attend the regional site, the main conference might see attendance reduced by 150. That’s okay. The gain of positive impact at the regional site is well worth it.
  • We hope to reach more children and teens by having a children’s choir and honor choir at each site. In 2014 only 13 of 58 children’s choir singers were from outside WI. For the 90-voice* honor choir, about half were from Wisconsin, with Minnesota and Michigan being the next strongest states. In a venue smaller than the 1700-seat Carthage chapel, a church with good acoustics that seats 350, smaller choirs of 20-40 voices will sound wonderful.
    *When the worship conference is not in the same summer as a youth rally, we usually have 120 voices.

The Irvine, CA will not offer as much as the main conference. But the experience will still be full and rewarding.

  • Workshops/presentations: 20-25  compared to almost 60 at the main conference. This still provides a wide selection from which participants will choose six options.
  • No full orchestra, but still a wide variety of quality instrumentalists
  • Perhaps half a day shorter
  • Fewer exhibitors


Festival Choir

A Festival Choir of about 125 voices directed by Dr. Kermit Moldenhauer from Martin Luther College and Mr. Dale Witte from Winnebago Lutheran Academy is being formed to participate in the opening concert for the 2017 National Conference on Worship, Music, and the Arts at Carthage College. The concert will be held on Tuesday, June 13, at 8:00 p.m. in the Carthage College chapel. Those interested in participating may learn more by reading this informational letter. The online application is available here. A downloadable application is also available.


The Commission on Worship is seeking names of musicians (instrumentalists, organists, pianists, choir directors, vocal soloists, and composers) with advanced training and/or professional experience in music. These musicians may be contacted for WELS worship events and especially for the National Conference on Worship, Music, and the Arts. If you have not submitted information in the past (or served a previous conference), please use the online form to send your information. A downloadable version is also available.

If your contact information has changed since the last conference, please contact the worship office to update your information.


The deadline to apply has been extended to April 3. Apply today!

Honor Choir and Children’s Choir applications are now available.

Learn more and download the brochures from the choir page on the worship resource center.


An exhibit of work from WELS and ELS visual artists will be shown at the 2017 WELS National Conference on Worship, Music, and the Arts at Carthage College in Kenosha, WI.

Artwork entered in this show will be judged by a panel at the conference, and awards will be given.

Conference participants also have an opportunity to choose their favorite piece.