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.

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Abundant Life Around the Table

Dorothy Bass, Valparaiso University
Susan Briehl, Valparaiso University

We will be discussing way of life that is a gift to us from Jesus Christ, a way of life and life abundant, which is God's love for us, made known in Jesus, and lived out in our lives and communities. Today we will be looking at the way we break bread together, the way we share food, gathering around any number and type of tables every day. It is our deep belief that when we gather around word and sacraments on the Lord's day, to hear that Word that cleanses and renews and guides us and to receive that presence of Jesus Christ in that bread and wine, we are being shaped for a way of life to serve God.

An Introduction to the Principles and Practices of Liturgical Dance

Shelley Marinus, Pine Rest Christian Hospital

A note taking document for liturgical dance - exploring its purpose (worship, prayer, communion with believers, expressing the story of scripture) and basic elements (music, clothing, props, imagery), as well as scripture references.

An Invitation to "The Liturgy of the Hours"

Pat Zandstra, Calvin Theological Seminary

The Liturgy of the Hours, also known as Fixed Hours of Prayer, Divine Hours, Daily Offices, or Common Prayer teaches us to pray, immerses us in Scripture, unites us with all believers who have gone before us and believers around the world, makes us aware of the passing of time in the liturgical year, provides words for us in tough times, and regularly draws our attention back to God throughout the day.

Choreography for Worship

Shelley Marinus, Pine Rest Christian Hospital

A handout for note taking during the workshop to review the purpose of the dance as part of worship and review the basic elements needed for dance in worship, and choreography planning considerations.

Christ's Priesthood and Our Praises

Gerrit Scott Dawson, First Presbyterian Church

As the eternal Son of God, our Lord has from before time been offering himself to his Father in perfect love. We might say he has ever been completely obedient, though the human implication of a hierarchy involved in obedience obscures the reality. The three co-equal persons of the Trinity give themselves to each other so absolutely that the most abject human obedience to another is pitifully shallow in comparison to the depths of such offering of one divine person to the other, and yet all of this is done not in servility but in total freedom. The very nature of the relationship between the eternal Son and the Father involves everlasting offering of one to the other.

Concert by Duo Majoya

Marnie Giesbrecht, University of Alberta
Joachim Segger, King's University College

The unlikely marriage of organ and piano, reasons for including this combination in worship: a piano and an organ are found in many or most sanctuaries today, instruments work well together in most situations, when played together either instrument can lead, the piano is a wonderful "stop" or color addition to the organ and vice versa, there is a growing repertoire for piano and organ, it creates great variety of tone colors which helps to draw attention to the words, it can enhance the variety of musical styles of congregational song, it is not difficult to learn this combination provided both organist and pianist are flexible, and it expands and enhances the role of the organ in worship.

Experiencing God in Worship

Bob Rognlien, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepard

"Western Christianity went to sleep in a modern world governed by the gods of reason and observation. It is awakening in a post-modern world open to revelation and hungry for experience.... It is one thing to talk about God. It is quite another thing to experience God." - Leonard Sweet, Post-Modern Pilgrims

"Among adults who regularly attend church services, one half admit that they haven't experienced God's presence in the past year." - George Barna

The more complete the experience of God, the greater the response to God! To read the introduction of Experiential Worship and sign up for the free EW Ideas Newsletter, visit!

Finding Stories for Sunday's Sermon

Mike Graves, Saint Paul School of Theology

A talk on finding stories for Sunday's Sermon, including the mp3 file and a note taking template. Adapted from Mike Graves, The Fully Alive Preacher: Recovering from Homiletical Burnout (Lousville: Westminister John Knox, 2006).

Finding Themselves at the Table: Youth Practicing Eucharistic Living in the World

Fred P. Edie, Duke Divinity School

The goal of this session is to address the theme of youth living Eucharistically. I see my task as creating "formationally rich environments." In an ecosystem, all the constituent members of an ecosystem contribute to the richness and vitality of the whole. Imagine a woodland ecosystem with trees, soil, organisms within the soil, certain animals dependent on the cover of the trees, birds, the whole thing works together. All of the pieces fit into the whole. In addition, the constituent members of the ecosystem are interdependent - for everything to flourish, everything is connected. When a member is lost, the whole ecosystem is diminished. The opposite is also true - environments of formation can enhance spiritual formation in youth.

God's Providence and the Problem of Evil: A Challenge to Faith

John Cooper, Calvin Theological Seminary
Scott E. Hoezee, Calvin Theological Seminary

An outline from a workshop focusing on the problem of suffering and evil, responses, sin and evil in Scripture, the limits of our understanding, and nurturing an enduring faith.

Imaginative Reading for Creative Preaching

W. Hulitt Gloer, Baylor University
Cornelius J. Plantinga Jr., Calvin Theological Seminary

If we do not tend the springs that nourish our lives and give light to our preaching, we soon lose our ability to see the things of God. The good news is obscured by the bad news that surrounds us every day, twenty four hours a day. Any moment of any day you can be confronted by the bad news of this world in which we now live. The bright colors of God's glorious creation fade to a pale shade of grey. The mystery and wonder of God's creative and redemptive purpose vanish behind the ruins and the clutter of this present darkness. We have eyes but we do not see. Imagination can be thought of as the image of God in us. We can no longer see the sacred subtext of life, we may lose the words to preach and even the words to pray.

Imagine... What Has Christ Done for Us?

Paul Ryan

How to plan with images in mind.

One way of planning the service of confession and assurance is to keep in mind an image of the atonement. These can be a catalyst for our words of confession and offer a means by which we might experience the assurance of salvation.

In Spirit and In Truth: The Role of Worship in Christian Higher Education

Tim McCarthy, Trinity Western University

The role of worship in Christian Higher Education is a unifying practice for missional endeavor, a well of missional conviction, a garden of missional practices, a fountain of missional response, and to discuss threats and areas of further development.

Leading Congregational Singing from the Piano

John Ferguson, Calvin Institute for Christian Worship
Cynthia Uitermarkt, Moody Bible Institute

A note taking outline for the session offered the 24th to the 26th, including discussion of the leadership role of the keyboard player, musical role of the keyboard player, and ways to prepare oneself each week.

Making Stuff Up: Magically Making Music in the Moment!

Tom Trenney, First Presbyterian Church

In many churches, the only time congregations clearly hear the organ as a solo instrument is during hymn introductions. Frequently, there is talking and movement during the prelude. Often, there is mass chaos during the postlude. Use this opportunity to showcase the many colours of your instrument and to set the tone for the music to follow. Introductions must clearly present the key, the tempo, and the character of the hymn to come. Otherwise, be creative!

One Hundred Years of Gospel in One Hour

James Abbington, Candler School of Theology

The second plenary address given on the first day of the conference.

What today's gospel music is, and what it is becoming, is part of the continuing evolution of African American music. Robert Darden calls it "religion with rhythm." I will attempt to illustrate the evolution of a musical style that only occasionally slows its evolution enough to be classified before it evolves once again. In historical terms, Black gospel music originated in the slave songs, field hollers, and Negro spirituals in the early 19th century that sustained the slaves and perpetuated an African American culture. At the end of the 19th century, this music had incorporated Protestant hymns, sung on Southern plantations, and later at camp meetings and churches. By the 20th century, gospel music had become and is becoming the most dominant music. The singing and instrumental styles across the American popular culture are all represented.

Planning Worship for the Global Village

Jorge Lockward, United Methodist Church

The goal is to enter into conversation and give very practical ideas about planning worship for a multicultural–if not setting, at least intention. "What church?" is the question. One of the worst expressions is "the great hymns of the church" - what church? What century? East, West? What culture? What makes them great? All of these questions are assumed in the statement.

Practicing Abundant Life Around the Table

Dorothy Bass, Valparaiso University

The Lord's Supper involves sharing real food that comes from Jesus Christ and that knits us together into his body and helps us to share in his life. John Calvin called this food nourishment for the journey of discipleship. In this hour, we will consider the relationship between this table and the other tables in our lives, all the ways we share food together as Christian people. In a sense, the pinnacle of Christian Worship is the sharing Lord's Supper and the proclamation of the Word. We also want to see how this meal can be a central point of the Christian life.

Praying with the Early Church: Crucial Lessons about Intercessory Prayer

John D. Witvliet, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

When my students and I approach the ancient church, we are on a quest for liturgical wisdom. We depend upon the most rigorous critical studies of the period, drawing on work in intellectual history, social history, and textual criticism, but we are not interested not primarily in developing more of this very important work. Rather, as practical theologians, we are ultimately interested in discovering wisdom to ground and inspire faithful liturgical practice today. Quite unapologetically, we are eager not merely to study this history, but to use it–for the study of materials from times long ago and places far away remains a potent antidote to the cultural captivity of Christianity in this or any other culture.

Preaching without Notes

Mike Graves, Saint Paul School of Theology

A note taking document on the brief discussion of the scary side of preaching, how to preach without notes, internalizing the gospel, and personal journey.

Program - Calvin Symposium on Worship: Word, Music, Vision, Action

We hope that this symposium will be spiritually refreshing for all of you. One of the main goals of the Worship Symposium is to be encouraged together by what God is doing in congregations across North America and beyond, and to learn to ask helpful questions about our own worship practices that focus our attention on the deep meaning and purpose of worship. We expect that we will also learn something more about how to preach, pray, and sing with greater understanding for those in our own communities and around the world who suffer for the cause of Christ.

Public Biblical Praying

Lester Ruth, Asbury Theological Seminary

The Berekah, or blessing, occurs several times throughout the Bible. Genesis 24:26-27: Then the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord, saying, "Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master." Exodus 18:10-11: "Blessed be the Lord, who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharoah, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians." There are further examples and discussion included in the handout.

Reclaiming Funerals as Christian Worship

John D. Witvliet, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship


To encourage each of you to set up a council discussion, adult education sessions about this topic (note: to change, even if to deepen, our practices in the context of the volatile emotions surrounding death is not likely, and may be very counter-productive),

To encourage each of you to select the very best books for your persona and church libraries (one of the best ways to deepen practice is to make the best resources the most available),

To plant the seeds of some constructive questions that can ferment a bit in each of our lives over the next several motnhs.

To gently encourage our reclamation of a) funeral in church, b) use of baptismal palls—or other symbolic acts of baptismal identity, including Rom 6:3-5, c) funeral Lord's Supper, d) public committal services, e) retitling funerals as "A Service of Witness to the Resurrection."

Redeeming the Time: Homiletic Theology for a Pilgrim People

Michael Pasquarello II, Asbury Theological Seminary

The idea for Redeeming the Time has emerged during more than twenty five years of leading worship according to the rhythms of the Christian Year and preaching from its common lectionary. In following these "traditioned" practices, I have often thought there is need for a fresh understanding of the Christian Year that will demonstrate the theological and pastoral wisdom of ordering a congregation's ministry of the Word and its life by means of the narrative of salvation proclaimed in the liturgical reading and preaching of Scripture.

Spiritual Formation in Worship-Centered Congregations

Jane Rogers Vann

When I talk about spiritual formation, what I have in mind is "being formed in the likeness of Christ." Now, people in every historical period and location have their own understanding of what "the likeness of Christ" might include. So we want to look at these images or assumptions and the ways they went about spiritual formation.

The Conference Choir

Joel Navarro, Calvin College
Tom Trenney, First Presbyterian Church
Jonathan Velasco, Asian Institute for Liturgy and Music

The Conference Choir were directed by Joel Navarro and Jonathan Velasco, with Tom Trenney at the organ and piano, including sheet music for Kyrie Eleison and O Worship The King (4th verse).

The Most Used Contemporary Worship Songs: Their View of God and our Love of God

Lester Ruth, Asbury Theological Seminary

We're going to be taking a close look at the lyrics of the most used contemporary worship songs. Some of the songs on the list are very old songs.

The Priest of our Worship, The Priests of Creation

Gerrit Scott Dawson, First Presbyterian Church

Christ now bears the office of priest, not only that by the eternal law of reconciliation he may render the Father favourable and propitious to us, but also admit us into this most honourable alliance. For we though in ourselves polluted, in him being priests (Rev. 1:6), offer ourselves and our all to God, and freely enter the heavenly sanctuary, so that the sacrifices of prayer and praise which we present are grateful and of sweet odour before him. To this effect are the words of Christ, "For their sakes I sanctify myself" (John 17:19), for being clothed with his holiness, inasmuch as he has devoted us to the Father with himself. (otherwise we were an abomination before him), we please him as if we were pure and clean, nay, even sacred. (Calvin, Institutes, 2. 15. 6)

The Renovation of the Heart: Spirituality

Roze Bruins
Sharon Bytwerk
Peter Jonker
Cornelius J. Plantinga Jr., Calvin Theological Seminary
Dallas Willard
Pat Zandstra, Calvin Theological Seminary

We're responding, from a Christian point of view, to the great hunger for spirituality that characterizes our time. I'm not going to talk much about the book, but it was primarily written for a huge need that emerged some time ago, that expressed itself in the church and our culture at large. The spiritual hunger for something more absorbing, strengthening, and directive for how life is supposed to be lived is what is focused on. Of course, this spirituality is entirely flat in terms of diversity, it is a nondescript spirituality.

Thriving as a Keyboard Player in the Diverse World of Church Music

Cynthia Uitermarkt, Moody Bible Institute

In today's church climate, the pianist or organist will need to be fluent in multiple styles: traditional, contemporary, and ethnic. For the classically trained performer, this can mean stretching well beyond the comfort zone. In this session, we will explore philosophical, spiritual, and practical strategies for surviving and thriving.

Understanding the Battle Between the Flesh and the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-18)–and the Way Out

Dallas Willard, University of Southern California

I find that misunderstandings of this prove to be a great hindrance in the spiritual life. Many people take the words that are in Galatians 5, Romans 7, and Ephesians 4 to indicate the impossibility of not sinning. The idea is that the flesh generates a kind of bondage, and so we have a culture which is set up for the recurring disastrous failures that affect individual lives. The greatest problem is the perpetual defeat that many ordinary Christians suffer from. One of the terrible effects of this is that it eliminates transparency, one of the most important things for us to achieve in stabilizing our walk with the Lord and with others.

We Speak Because We Have Been Spoken: A "Grammar" of the Preaching Life

Michael Pasquarello II, Asbury Theological Seminary
Scott E. Hoezee, Calvin Theological Seminary

Writing in the first handbook for preachers, St. Augustine concludes there is nothing more important for a preacher than becoming "a living sermon," a person whose life and speech embodies God's self - communicative goodness and love. Yet only the inexhaustibly generous self - giving of the Triune God, the Word spoken by the Father and the Son in the Spirit, is capable of transforming our human capacities for homiletic excellence that is evinced by keen intellect, deep piety, and virtuous action within the living communion of the Church.

what hath silicon valley to do with jerusalem? technological innovation and ancient practice in worship

Mark Roeda, Campus Chapel

Worship is something we do, not observe. Because technology supplies us with the capacity to program and record content which it will then present on demand, utilizing technology in worship can remove the sense of immediacy (in terms of both time and space) of worship, the sense that this is something we are doing now, together. In short, it risks reducing us to passive observers of the acts of worship.

When the Fires Die: Religious Critiques of Revivalism in the Aftermath of the Second Great Awakening

John D. Bratt, Calvin College
Lester Ruth, Asbury Theological Seminary

A document accompanying a talk on the aftereffects of the Second Great Awakening, including types of critics, common charges, common complaints, and proposed solutions.

Where Can I Find That Song? Researching Hymns Online–Greg Scheer

Greg Scheer, Church of the Servant

There are a few databases that will allow anyone to find sources of particular songs or hymns. The most established (still within the last few years) are geared toward historical hymns, but more recent databases are becoming more comprehensive and global in scope, even to providing sources of different versions/keys, ability to print a song, ideas for performance, etc. Come to learn about the current state of research.

The Hymnary is an online hymn and hymnal database that is collaboration between The Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL) and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW). The project actually began as a brainstorm to create an online space for those who work in global hymnody. As the idea moved forward, we realized that expanding the focus from just global worship music to all types of congregational song would allow us to serve more people with the same database and increase the critical mass of users needed to make the project successful.

Who may and may not participate in the worship life of the church?

Mark Stephenson, Christian Reformed Church

A discussion and reflection on disability in the church, presented by Reverend Mark Stephenson, Director of Disability Concerns, CRCNA.

"Persons with disabilities include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impairments which in interaction with various barriers may hinder their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others." (Article 1: Purpose, "Final report of the Ad Hoc Committee on a comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities," United Nations General Assembly, A/61/611, 6 December 2006)

"Whose Art? Which Church?"

Lisa De Boer, Westmont College

The Stations of Christ's Life generated a series of fourteen images representing moments in Christ's life. Our aim was to produce images that invite more intentional practices of visual piety that are congenial to Protestant sensibilities, yet are rooted in a pan-Christian devotion to the imitation of Christ. The narratives were chosen to represent the full scope of Christ's ministry on earth and to resonate with the experiences of young people in transition to full adulthood.

Worship 101: The Building Blocks of a Biblical Approach to Worship

John D. Witvliet, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

George Barna: "Most of the church people who fight about their musical preference do so because they don't understand the relationship between music, communication, God and worship. Church leaders foster the problem by focusing on how to please people with music or how to offer enough styles of music to meet everyone's tastes rather dealing with the underlying issues of limited interest in, comprehension of, and investment in fervent worship of a holy, deserving God." ... The Barna study discovered that among the key worship issues is that church-going adults and Protestant Senior Pastors do not share a common perception of the most important outcome of worship. Congregants were most likely to understand worship as activity undertaken for their personal benefit (47%) while Senior Pastors described the purpose of worship as connecting with God (41%) or experiencing His presence (30%). Only three out of ten church-going adults (29%) indicated that they view worship as something that is focused primarily on God. One out of every five attenders admitted that they had no idea what the most important outcome of worship is.

Worship as the Fine Texture of Real Life

Dallas Willard, University of Southern California

One of the two plenary addresses given during the opening of the 2008 Calvin Symposium on Worship. This one was given by Dallas Willard in the College Chapel.

Youth, Formation, and Intergenerational Worship Seminar

Fred P. Edie, Duke Divinity School
Walt Mueller, Center for Parent/Youth Understanding
Kathy Smith, Calvin Theological Seminary
Jane Rogers Vann, Union Theological Seminary
Anne E. Streaty Wimberly, Interdenominational and Theological Center

The topic generates a lot of passions-among youth, among their parents, among everyone in churches who loves and ministers to youth. This session-which is built largely around panel presentations and group discussions-will work on refining a list of the most strategic questions each local congregation should be asking and a list of the "10 Most Helpful Proverbs" to guide local communities in approaching this topic with insight. This session is especially for those involved in youth ministry and worship, including pastors, youth pastors, high school teachers, and worship team leaders and participants. Youth pastors and high school chapel leaders are encouraged to come with two or three young people form their churches or schools, so that the dialogue includes them as well.