For over 35 years, the Calvin Symposium on Worship has annually gathered together worshipers from many Christian traditions across Canada, the US, and beyond, bringing together people from a variety of roles in worship and leadership, including pastors, worship planners and leaders, musicians, scholars, students, worship bands and teams, organists, visual artists, preachers, chaplains, missionaries, liturgists, council and session leaders, and more. Cosponsored by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and the Center for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary, the Symposium aims to encourage leaders in churches and worshiping communities of all sizes and settings.

Browse the contents of Symposium on Worship Archive:

2020 - 1 Peter: Living in Hope and Grace
2019 - The Gospel in the Prophets
2018 - “Jesus Did Many Other Things As Well...”: The Eastertide Gospel
It may have been the most significant six weeks ever. Because the Bible tells us that for 40 whole days the resurrected King of kings and Lord of lords was alive and walking the streets of this world. Amazing! You would think that the Gospels would have recorded everything Jesus said and did following his history-shattering resurrection. After all, what could be more important than what happened during those awesome days? And yet...we have only a precious few texts that tell us anything about what happened between Easter and the Ascension. Perhaps the message is that everything we need to know about Jesus and his work had been revealed well before God validated it all by raising the Son from the dead. Still, what we find in that handful of post-Easter texts reveals much about Jesus and the nature of salvation. At Symposium 2018 our main worship services will ponder these texts to see what they tell us about discipleship and what it means “to serve a risen Savior” who, through us, is still in the world today.
2017 - The Faithful Witness: Being Christ’s Church in an Apocalyptic World
2016 - The Book of Isaiah
Isaiah was given one tough assignment by the Lord God of Israel. Isaiah was commissioned to preach, as all prophets were, but in Isaiah’s case God assured him up front that the better he preached, the less people would listen. The people’s ignoring and even spurning of Isaiah’s sermons would serve as a sign against them that the judgment God was sending was just and altogether warranted. Isaiah’s was a stern message of judgment but scattered throughout even the first half of the book are lyric passages of hope. But then comes the second part of Isaiah where words of encouragement and hope pile up in lovely ways. At the 2016 Symposium we will use some of those later texts of Isaiah in our worship to remind ourselves that although our God is a God of justice, God is also the font of all grace and hope. It was a comforting message for Israel and is no less a source of unending joy in the New Israel, the Church of Christ Jesus our Lord.
2015 - Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians: New Covenant Reconciliation
The Apostle Paul’s correspondence with the church at Corinth occupied a great deal of Paul’s time and energy. The two letters (and nearly thirty chapters) to the Corinthians that we have in the New Testament are just a part of a larger correspondence. Paul had to write as much as he did because, not unlike congregations today, the church at Corinth had many struggles, many concerns, and not a few questions as to what it means to live into a baptized identity in Christ. When Paul addressed his beloved Corinthians in what we call 2 Corinthians, he took care to lay out what it means to be people of a New Covenant in Christ and that a major part of that New Covenant is the need to be reconciled to one another across all of our differences and all of our “jars of clay” frailties. Only through reconciliation in and through Christ can we become God’s new people, ambassadors of God’s grace to a hurting world as we spread the sweet aroma of love and unity to and among all people.
2013 - The Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5 - 7)
“He began to teach . . .” is the simple, understated line with which Matthew opens one of the most remarkable sections in the entire Bible: The Sermon on the Mount. From the lyric beauty of the Beatitudes to stunning teachings on prayer and kingdom living, Matthew 5-7 contain the cherished words of Jesus that have shaped Christian practice and reflection across the sweep of church history. At our Symposium 2013 worship services we will reflect on these chapters through music, art, and preaching, celebrating the goodness and grace of God as it emerges from these ancient, yet always fresh, verses from the holy Gospel of Jesus Christ the Lord.
2012 - The Psalms: When Life is Prayer
C.S. Lewis once said that taken together, the sum total of any person’s prayer life would amount to that person’s autobiography. If any of us could listen to all of the prayers of a given person, we would learn a tremendous amount about that person. We would come to know what brings her joy, what brings her sorrow. We would understand where her anxieties in life are located and just what it is that brings her the most shame and guilt. Our prayer lives represent our autobiography, our story, our character, our inmost being. That is why the Book of Psalms has been the prayer book of God’s people for millennia. Across the sweep of these ancient Hebrew poems we can see reflected most every season of human life: joy and sorrow, thanksgiving and repentance, praise and lament. No matter where a person may be at any given moment of life, there is a psalm to give voice to that moment. The people of God recite and sing the psalms not only because of their lyric beauty and poetry but because they ring true. They reflect real life. What’s more, they remind us that there is no part of life that cannot be brought to speech before our loving, understanding, and compassionate God.
2011 - “Every Time I Remember You” The Letter to the Philippians
Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi may well be the warmest in tone of his thirteen New Testament epistles. Although not completely free of conflict, the Philippian church appears to be quite healthy and also near and dear to the apostle’s heart. So in this letter Paul is able to offer counsel and direction on not only the basics of Christian living and spirituality but on what we could call “higher level” apostolic teaching as well. This makes Philippians a rich trove of lyric teachings and insights into the nature of Christ and our relationship to him in this present world while we eagerly await his return in glory. Paul begins his letter with warm thanksgiving and concludes with ardent rejoicing, providing the very frame that we all hope will surround our Christian living as we work in Christ’s Church in also our time and in our many and varied contexts.
1998 - Bringing Biblical Narratives to Life
Christian worship is rooted in scripture. Biblical narratives are the source for the images and themes that are expressed in every element of public worship. This year's Symposium on Worship and the Arts explores how worship can foster a creative encounter with the biblical text. Together we will learn how master preachers and artists, youth leaders and musicians, actors and worship planners approach the biblical text, and- by the Spirit's power-bring it to life in creative and engaging ways. Come to this year's Symposium expecting to be inspired by this creativity and looking for practical ideas for use in your congregation.
1997 - Walk as Children of the Light
1996 - Many Voices, One Song
The church is a chorus of many voices--voices reflecting different age groups, ethnic backgrounds, and economic situatiqns; voices reflecting different forms of artistic and cultural expression; voices of praise and lament, of tradition and of present-day experience. This year's Symposium invites participants to explore some of the ways of blending these "many voices" in harmony with the "one song" of authentic Christian worship.
1995 - The Eighth Symposium on Worship and Church Music at Calvin College & Seminary
1994 - The Seventh Calvin College Symposium on Worship and Church Music
1992 - The Fifth Calvin College Symposium on Worship and Church Music
1991 - The Fourth Calvin College Symposium on Worship and Church Music
1990 - The Third Calvin College Symposium on Worship and Church Music
1989 - The Second Calvin College Symposium on Worship and Church Music
As Christians from many backgrounds and denominations, we join together today to praise God. In so doing, we affirm our unity in Christ and our joy in living the Christian life. With T . S. Eliot, we affirm that the worship of God is the foundation of our lives together. In a world filled with both division and despair, today's activities stand as a testimony to God's power. We also gather together to learn and to share. As leaders of God's people, we are challenged to inspire in them the very zeal for worship and desire for community which we share. It is our prayer that today's activity will encourage all of us toward this goal.
1988 - Calvin College Symposium on Worship and Church Music
Participating in this service were Mr. Kevin J. Bylsma, liturgist; Dr. John Ferguson, organ; Rev. Victor Anderson, piano; and the musical group New Beginning.