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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A Gospel Medley: African-American and Beyond

Kenneth Wallace, Mosaic Church

The word “medley” has multiple layers of meaning; we can speak of a gospel medley of songs, then there is the fact that African Americans are themselves a medley of cultures, We will sing and reflect on the multiple meanings, experiences, techniques, and values offered in African American and other cultures and music.

"Alleluias" Concentrated: Enabling Expansive Worship in Small Membership Congregations

Paul Detterman, Presbyterians for Renewal

“If we only had / could…” can become too common a phrase in smaller congregations. God invites us to worship as we can, not as we can’t. Paul Detterman spends the vast majority of his time working with “wee kirks” (under 70 in worship). This session will equip and encourage even the smallest congregation (or small group within a larger community) to design and experience deep, joy-filled worship using everything God has given them and requiring nothing more.

Asian Christian Worship Practices Worth Adopting or Adapting

Greg Scheer, Church of the Servant
Swee Hong Lim, Baylor University

This session will introduce a variety of worship expressions from Asian cultures—songs and prayers, gestures that can sometime speak with more eloquence than words, and visual ways to bring beauty to your worship space—all gifts for your congregation to consider.

Beauty at the Cross(roads): Quotations and Concepts

Bruce Herman, Gordon College

Is the Beautiful relevant to the life of faith? Is it mere window dressing/distraction or is it somehow crucial for our life together? Moreover, does beauty require anything of us besides personal assent? Is there anything like a transcendent or true beauty that requires commitment as much as perceptual apprehension? These and other questions surrounding the beautiful will be explored and discussed in this session.

Christian High School in Children Youth and Adults

Cindy de Jong, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship
Eric Nykamp, Madison Square Church
James K.A. Smith, Calvin College

Teams of students and teachers from 35 high schools across Canada and the United States are part of this seminar, by invitation only.

Creative Ideas for Using the Psalms with People with Intellectual Disabilities

Joyce Borger, Faith Alive Christian Resources
Nella Uitvlugt, Friendship Ministries

The psalms are the prayer book for all Christians and have as much to say to the person with the Ph.D. as the person with intellectual disabilities. The psalms give voice to both the praise and lament of all God’s children. In this session we will look at ways to assist people with intellectual disabilities to enter into the psalms and make them their own, using a multisensory method of music, drama, and visual ideas. This study of Psalms has a broad use within the Christian community.

Fresh and New, Tried and True II: A Session on Hymn-based Piano Collections for Worship

Norma de Waal Malefyt, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

“If we only had / could…” can become too common a phrase in smaller congregations. God invites us to worship as we can, not as we can’t. Paul Detterman spends the vast majority of his time working with “wee kirks” (under 70 in worship). This session will equip and encourage even the smallest congregation (or small group within a larger community) to design and experience deep, joy-filled worship using everything God has given them and requiring nothing more.

From Scripture Reading to Scripture Proclamation: There’s a Difference!

Jeff Barker, Northwestern College

Does your church look forward to the “scripture reading” part of worship? If not, why not? This seminar provides examples (live and via DVD) to explore ways to reclaim the power of presenting Scripture in worship. Participants will work with a variety of passages in a variety of ways through both solo and group efforts. Participants are also invited to prepare a short passage (memorized or to be read) for coaching.

Glocal Worship! Finding the Local Congregation's Global Voice

Michael Hawn, Perkins School of Theology

Glocal (no, this is not misspelled!) worship assumes that the Holy Spirit empowers local congregations as part of the body of Christ to connect with, pray for, and learn from the global church. This session will explore strategies for encouraging Glocal worship wherever you are.

Intentionally Inclusive Worship

Mark Stephenson, Christian Reformed Church in North America
Bill Vanden Bosch
Lyn Vanden Bosch

When Rev. Bill and Lyn Vanden Bosch came to Oakdale Park Church in Grand Rapids they decided that they would stay long enough for the church to become an inclusive community. They stayed 30 years. They will help participants understand what an intentionally inclusive church looks like. It’s not about creating programs, but creating a mindset which says to each individual, “You belong.” That same mindset avoids paternalism by also telling each person, “You have something to contribute.” Workshop leaders will touch on issues relating to inclusiveness and worship, pastoral care, outreach, and fellowship.

Just Worship

Calvin Symposium on Worship
Ruth Padilla DeBorst, Fraternidad Teológica Latinoamericana
Scott Hoezee, Calvin Theological Seminary
Mary Mikhael, Near East School of Theology
Jerry Pillay, St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church

Leading Worship from the Keyboard

Micah VanderHill, Second Reformed Church

Keyboardists today are expected to adapt to a multitude of worship styles and settings. This session demonstrates tools needed to expand playing versatility, especially in working with worship teams. Solo congregational leading, practical improvisation, playing from a lead sheet and other topics will be demonstrated for keyboardists of all levels.

Leading Worship Renewal

Betty Grit, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

Effective projection imagery can enhance worship by bringing people into God’s time and space, reaching them pastorally and freeing them for awe-filled praise. In this workshop we will share some best and worst practices and some foundational principles for the use of media in worship.

Leading Worship with the Guitar

Andrew Donaldson, Trafalgar Presbyterian Church
Robert Keeley, Calvin College

Sometimes a guitarist is the lead musician in a band, or perhaps the guitarist is the only musician leading the congregation in song. Does leading with guitar also mean leading with your voice? Can the guitar take the keyboard role? This session will explore the needed skills and the challenges of encouraging congregational singing led by guitar

Learn more about Calvin College

Rick Zomer, Calvin Admissions

An interactive session with Rick Zomer from the Calvin Admissions Office

Learning Reconciliation through Worship Music and Community

David Bailey, Making a Melody

Forty years ago Dr. Martin Luther King stated, “11 o’clock Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America.” Forty years later, the racial segregation has not changed a lot, and the segregation has spread to other areas such as age and class. In this workshop, we will discuss practical methods to use worship music as a tool in the ministry of reconciliation within a local church context.

Learning to Maintain Stamina as a Spiritual Leader

Dale Cooper, Calvin College

The burnout rate among church leaders is high. Take pastors as an example: One of every two quits within two years of seminary graduation. In this sectional we’ll identify factors which lead to loss of resiliency, and consider how church leaders can maintain their stamina and flourish both personally and professionally

Lessons from Sodom

Scott Vander Ploeg, Sunlight Community Church

Many in today’s society have only a vague notion of sin and its consequences. Yet, the gospel of Jesus Christ stands out most brilliantly only when understood against the destructive backdrop of human sin. Utilizing the Old Testament story of Lot in Sodom, Scott Vander Ploeg will explore how to effectively communicate the bad news/good news of the gospel in a mission context.

Medleys of Praise: Creating flow within a medley of congregational songs

Robert Nordling, Calvin College

In this session we will use the Thursday Vespers Service (led by Robert Nordling) and walk through the design, planning and preparation involved using various instruments. Q/A time will follow, with time to explore options for instrumentation, transitions, copyrights, etc. Full packets of the medleyscore and parts will be distributed to those who attend.

Moving Worship: Encouragement to Engage Our Bodies in Worship

Julia Start, Turning Pointe School of Dance

We will study together how dance and movement can enhance worship—whether in the pews or in an open space. We will address the issues of congregational movement as well as dance ministry settings.

One Kingdom: Worship & Welcome for Multi-cultural Communities

David Bailey, Making a Melody
Josh Davis, Proskuneo
Robin Harris, International Council of Ethnodoxologists
Michael Hawn, Perkins School of Theology
JaeWoo Kim, Kings Region
Swee Hong Lim, Baylor University
Paul Neeley, International Council of Ethnodoxologists
Kenneth Wallace, Mosaic Church
Anne Zaki, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

How can our worship practices extend a sense of welcome to culturally diverse peoples? When our communities become more multicultural, how can our worship reflect unity in diversity? Leaders with a wide range of international and multicultural experiences will examine aspects of the “why” of culturally expanded worship practices (biblical basis), and the “how” (practicalities and case studies), with many examples of multicultural songs and helpful resources.

Parenting in the Pew: The Call, Cost, and Challenge of Children in the Sanctuary

Robbie Castleman, John Brown University

Based on the book Parenting in the Pew, this session for parents, pastors, and children’s ministry leaders will consider ways the church and home can work together to train children for participation in worship with the intergenerational community. The session will end with opportunity to discuss how particular liturgical styles offer different opportunities for the participation of children.

Projection Imagery: Creating Sacred Space

Calvin Symposium on Worship
Wendy de Jong, Jubilee Fellowship Christian Reformed Church

Re-tuning the Lyre

Karen Campbell, First Presbyterian Church

Psalms have been part of personal and public worship in Ireland since the times of St. Patrick. Yet, today some react against the tradition of metrical psalm singing. The Worship Panel of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland was tasked to examine, revise and refresh the use of psalms in corporate worship. This workshop will demonstrate some newer Irish psalm settings for worship and suggest ways for creative use of the Psalms in worship so that the next generation will come to know God, ‘even the children yet to be born so that they in turn will tell their children’ (Psalm 78: 6).

Remembering Our Baptisms

Howard Vanderwell, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

Churches and families which practice infant baptism face a significant challenge for the formation of faith. How can a one-time baptism of long ago continue to be a shaping influence in the lives of children and youth? How can we be sure that it won’t be “long forgotten”? We’ll examine the role of parents in keeping the idea of baptism alive. We’ll also share our best practices as congregations in liturgical actions that effectively remember baptism.

Rich and Varied Responses to the Word

Constance Cherry, Indiana Wesleyan University

If worship is a dialogue of revelation/response between God and people, what happens when the primary avenue of revelation (the sermon) ends without a thoughtful, intentional response from the community? This session helps worship leaders envision rich possibilities for developing responses to the Word so that the conversation with God is sustained, especially when the Eucharist is not offered.

Scripture Comes Alive

Betty Grit, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

Grant recipients will describe how their congregations became engaged through sermons, music and visual arts to bring Scripture to life.

Someday You'll be a Good Preacher

Stanley Mast, La Grave Avenue Christian Reformed Church

The journey to good preaching is as filled with twists and turns as a Rocky Mountain highway. Stan Mast is a veteran road warrior who will share hard won insights into what it takes to become a good preacher. Special attention will be paid to the sharp tongued critics who can drive aspiring preachers off the road.

The Art of Worship Team Leadership

Paul Ryan, Calvin College
Greg Scheer, Church of the Servant

Your church has a worship team—but how do you help them reach the next level? This seminar includes instruction in the role of the worship team, guitar, piano, bass, drums, putting all the instruments together, rehearsing effectively, and leading worship. The seminar is aimed toward team leaders, but anyone who is on worship team or hopes to lead one in the future will benefit.

The Gospel According to You: Using Your Story to Tell God's Story

Mark Charles, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship
Scott Hoezee, Calvin Theological Seminary
Moses Kang, Emmanuel College

In a world that is Biblically illiterate and thinks it is far too “busy” to go to church, how can we open up for people the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? How can we show them the beauty of the Psalms of David, or expose them to the wisdom of the exhortations of Paul? How can we capture their attention long enough to wonder at the greatness of God? The answer is through our stories. Our own stories of God’s faithfulness in our daily lives shared, against a backdrop of scripture, over a cup of coffee or from a pulpit or lectern provide some of the most vivid testimonies to God’s character that this ‘busy’ world will ever see. This seminar will examine the use of stories from different cultural contexts and expose the participants to a varied use of narrative in different teaching and preaching styles.

The Worship Architect

Constance Cherry, Indiana Wesleyan University

Comparing the work of a worship leader to that of an architect, this session offers a blueprint for designing worship services through various phases: laying the foundations, building the large frame for encountering God, creating doors and windows for dialogue with God, adding style to the worship event, and more.

The Worship Planning Team as Conversation Partners

Barbara D. Miller, Candler School of Theology

Who is invited to plan worship? What spiritual gifts need to be included on the planning team? How can the planning team leader facilitate conversation among diverse voices? In this interactive session, participants will discover answers to these and other questions about organizing, structuring and leading worship planning teams.

What Role for Historic (or Recent) Confessions in Worship?

James C. Dekker, Covenant Christian Reformed Church
Eleazar Merriweather, St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church
Jerry Pillay, St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church
Lester Ruth, Asbury Theological Seminary
Joyce Ann Zimmerman, Institute for Liturgical Ministry

Does what we say we believe affect how we worship? With the rise of recent statements like the Accra and Belhar Confessions, many church leaders are dusting off historic confessions, wondering what role they could or should still play in the worship, life and thought of church members. This seminar will consider the educational and liturgical use of confessions from several different denominational perspectives.

What's New at

Harry Plantinga, Calvin College
Greg Scheer, Church of the Servant continues to grow. This year we received a grant from the NEH to incorporate the Dictionary of North American Hymnology into our database, have added information and page scans, are creating opportunities for hymn-related publishers, and have developed a beta version of a new search engine. New and seasoned users of are invited to this session to hear about the latest developments and to provide feedback for future improvements.

Worship and Human Emotion

Syd Hielema, Redeemer University

Human emotion plays a profound role in Christian worship, but this role is very complex and easily misunderstood. What is the role of human emotion in our walk with God, and how do we as worship leaders obediently honour that role? What temptations to abuse emotion do we experience? How might we guide congregations to both emotional freedom and emotional maturity?

Worship and Mission after Christendom

Alan Kreider, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary
Eleanor Kreider, Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary

As Christendom wanes, worship and mission can be integrated anew. Worship glorifies God and forms the worshippers to participate in the missio Dei. This session examines worship practices that embody God’s mission, forming intriguing Christians and hospitably receiving inquirers whom the Christians attract.