RENEW in Ottawa


Jonathan Camiré is a ministry intern at Church of the Messiah, Ottawa and is studying for his licentiate in divinity at Ryle Seminary. A university-trained musician and French horn artist and teacher, Jonathan is passionate about music and about seeing people become disciples of Jesus.

So this May he is organizing a conference that will be hosted at St. Peter & St. Paul’s, Ottawa called RENEW. The conference is intended for artists, pastors, and theologians who want to explore deeper questions of worldview, worship, and witness, as the church renews its involvement in the musical arts.

We connected with Jonathan to discuss more about the conference and the ideas around it.

What sparked the idea for RENEW?

In some ways, the RENEW conference reflects my personal journey of going from a worshiper of music to a worshiper of Jesus. Before becoming a Christian in university, music was my “god.” This idolization isn’t unique to me, because music is one of the more powerful human experiences in terms of its ability to reach us emotionally and to carry us imaginatively. Music plays a huge role in human experience, but this doesn’t mean it defines, fulfills, or redeems our humanity. While music apart from God disappoints, music is a gift of God, a gift that finds new life when our first love is with the Giver of the gift. As an artist, I want others to understand the gift of music through the lens of seeing God’s glory revealed on the earth. This is why RENEW is an appropriate name for what we have set out to do with this conference: to renew our understanding of and love for God and the arts.

How is the vision for RENEW shaped by the gospel?

Our vision for RENEW is shaped by the truth that God is “[reconciling] to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:19-20). As Jesus is reconciling all things to Himself, Christ’s Body must bring the world of things in harmony with the Creator of all things, including music. With this in mind, RENEW 2019 will explore deeper questions of worldview, worship, and witness to encourage the church to renew its involvement in the musical arts and to play its part in reconciling the world to God.

RENEW has a subtitle of “arts + apologetics”. How do you see the relationship or connection between the two?

The goal of Christian apologetics is to provide a sound and reasoned defense of the faith so people see--with conviction--the world through the paradigm of the Gospel. The work of apologetics therefore involves the deepening of the Christian’s faith and the effective sharing of that faith with others. Seeing that the arts play such an important role in our human experience, it is important to engage the arts with the Christian worldview. Music reveals much about who we are, how the world around us works, and Who made it all. Music (and the arts more generally) is a way to broach some of the big questions of life through our minds and our senses.

This May's conference is titled “Songs and Sounds”. What is the vision for this particular conference?

As I mentioned earlier, this conference will explore worldview, worship, and witness with the goal of deepening our understanding of and love for God and the arts. There are many questions that need revisiting, for example, How does music reveal God? What is the role of a musician in this world? What is the role of music in our Christian devotion? How do we renew our culture? How do I connect with music from a different culture? What is God’s plan for our experience of music? Some of us live as though music is merely aesthetic and therefore a form of vain self-indulgence. Others nearly equate music to the Holy Spirit. In a way, the vision of RENEW is to rediscover what it means to be human in a world where music, which was designed by God, both exists and transforms some of the deepest parts of our lives.

What are your primary goals?

One of our goals for the conference is to create a unique space for learning and inspiration. Many of us share a common language with many people around the globe. However, regionalisms and accents often create barriers to communication--that is, until we spend time together and get use to the differences in how we speak our common language. In the Christian world, lay people, pastors, and theologians generally share common beliefs about the faith. But they speak as though they are using regionalism and accents that make it difficult for each other to understand. The difficulty of engaging with one another can peril the Church’s effectiveness. My main goal for this conference is to gather lay people, pastors, and theologians together for a couple days to listen to one another speak about music with their different Christian “accents” in order advance the Church’s effectiveness in loving and serving God and our neighbors.

Who do you hope will be there and what should they expect?

We hope anyone who simply enjoys music will come. We do hope pastors and theologians will come to engage with important Biblical and theological truths that pertain to music, but we are not assuming attendees will have musical or theological training. This conference is geared for anyone. As we shine a beautiful light on the world of music, Christian and non-Christian artists/musicians will undoubtedly find this conference challenging and encouraging. In other words, if you’ve ever liked a song or have been intrigued by a sound, RENEW 2019 is for you!

What’s your hope for the future of RENEW?

This first step is a big one that requires lots of faith! But looking beyond this first conference, we would like to see more events that engage other art forms such as the visual arts, cinema, story, and so on. We also hope to create opportunities for dialogue between Christians and non-Christians on these art forms. We want to be humble about this, but I think people are interested in a deeper human experience through the arts, especially with the prominence of technology in our day-to-day life. There’s something special about the struggle and tangible effort that goes into any work of art, not to mention the risk of failure in a live performance. Art speaks to us about how life really is, how life doesn't work like a “play” button that gives perfect results every time. In the end, we hope to inspire a generation of people who engage thoughtfully and passionately in the arts as stewards of God’s grace.

How can people pray for this event in May?

Thanks for asking! We would appreciate your prayers for our organizers and speakers as they prepare for the conference. Pray they would always seek to be Gospel-centered and that the Holy Spirit would inspire godly creativity. We would also appreciate prayers for ticket sales and more sponsors. Lastly, pray that God would raise artists who seek to do His will in renewing our churches and our culture.

To learn more about RENEW and to get tickets for the conference coming up May 24-25, 2019 in Ottawa click the button below.