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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. In 2016, Services of the Word focused on the book of Isaiah.

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A Mosaic of Faith and Hope: A Festival Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

James Abbington, Candler School of Theology
Emmet G. Price III, Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
Kathleen S. Turner, Greater Allen AME Church

Alumni of the James Abbington Church Music Academy of the Hampton Ministers Institute lead a festival of congregation songs from a variety of cultural settings that explore contrasting, but complementary ways that music brings to expression Christian faith and hope.

A Sweet Sound: Absorbing God's Word in the Language of the Heart

Ann Kapteyn, Calvin Theological Seminary

Many people around the world are multilingual but do not have access to the scriptures in their mother tongue. What changes when a person hears God’s Word in their own language as opposed to their second or third language? How does the translation of key theological terms into a person’s mother tongue change their understanding? Beyond language, some cultures are oriented to oral methods of communication rather than reading and writing. What methods, resources, and new technology are available to people who prefer to listen to God’s Word rather than read it? This talk will be a wide-ranging discussion how to make God’s Word available to people in a language and format that is most meaningful to them. Explore how insights from a Bible translator might challenge you to think about how people in your community absorb the deep meaning of scripture.

Autism and Your Church

Barbara J. Newman, CLC Network

With one in 68 individuals being diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it is likely that your worshiping community already includes someone with ASD. If you are a pastor, worship leader, musician, church school teacher, or church volunteer, discover specific ways to identify, interact with, and worship with persons with ASD. Using six key areas of difference, this session will take best practices in special education and apply them to a church setting. Leave with a toolbox full of new ideas to try starting next week with both children and adults!

Beauty, Silence, and Culture Care: An Interview with Makoto Fujimura

Makoto Fujimura, Fuller Theological Seminary
Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

Theologian Neal Plantinga engages with artist and author Mako Fujimura on his vision for complementing recent work on creation care with what he has termed “culture care”—a redemptive approach to artistry and other forms of cultural engagement which seeks to contribute to “the healing of the nations.” What is it like for a novelist, filmmaker, and painter to embody this culture care approach? And what might this teach those who lead worship or congregational life? Come for a wide-ranging discussion that promises to include a discussion Martin Scorcese’s latest film, Mako’s own painting, and some resourceful examples emerging from next-generation leaders around the world.

Biblical Storytelling Masterclass

Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence, Calvin Theological Seminary

How can dramatic arts and oral interpretation be used in worship? By applying skills from these art forms to scripture recitation! Bring your memorized Bible narrative to share and hone. Participants are welcome to observe, or to work with Joy in deepening their communication of God’s Word.

Bringing Hymns to Life on Guitar

Wendell Kimbrough

We’ve heard many of the great old hymns played beautifully with organs, pianos, and choirs, but their journey into the world of guitar-led worship can be awkward. Old tunes are often abandoned or significantly altered in the name of modernization, but such revision is not always necessary. This workshop will focus on demonstrating and discussing how to translate traditional hymns into a guitar-led band format while keeping the hymn’s soul intact.

Celtic Psalms: Finding Light in the Darkness

Karen Campbell, First Presbyterian Church
Kiran Young Wimberly
McGraft Family

In this worship service we pray with psalms set to soulful Irish and Scottish melodies, exploring how God’s light shines even in the midst of our darkest nights, guiding us into places of joy, forgiveness, and peace.

Designing Worship from the Bottom Up: Practical Ethnographic Tools for Worship Leaders

Luke Bobo
Denise Daniels
Kate Harris
Matthew Kaemingk, Fuller Theological Seminary
Cory Willson

The “Faith and Work” movement has become popular in many churches in North America in recent years. Many have sought to bridge the gap between Sunday worship and Monday work by showing how Christian liturgy and theology affect how we approach our weekday work. But our weekday work also affects how we inhabit Sunday worship in profound ways, and those who lead and craft liturgies do well to be attentive to this reality. This workshop will explore practical ways for worship leaders to discover the effect weekday work experiences have on worshipers, drawing implications for how to design and lead worship.

Essential Worship: Introducing People to the Art of Leading Worship

Greg Scheer, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

Greg will offer reflections on his new book. This is an ideal session for beginning worship leaders, anyone who mentors, teaches, or encourages them, or anyone who is preparing to lead brief training sessions for a worship team or worship committee in their context.

Explaining Christian Worship to the Skeptical or Questioning Seeker: Group Exercise

Kevin Adams, Newbigin House of Studies

What are best practices for introducing people to the practices of Christian worship? How can we give an account of what we do in worship in warm, winsome, and convicting ways that move beyond surface level explanations to address the deepest spiritual hungers of our age?

Faith Formation from Birth to Age 20: A Psychology Professor's Insights for Strengthening Congregational Ministry

Marjorie L. Gunnoe, Calvin College

What are the most important things to know when working with kids ages 0–2, 3–6, 7–11, early adolescents, and late adolescents? This fast-paced session is a (really, really) condensed version of a course required for Calvin students minoring in Youth Ministry—without the homework. Helpful for parents, pastors, teachers, mentors and anyone who cares about the faith formation of the next generation.

Hosanna!: Ecumenical Songs for Justice and Peace

Ester P. Widiasih, World Council of Churches

This collection of music is gathered from five continents and many different cultural contexts. Each song carries with it a story that provides insights into the unique challenges and piety of worshiping communities around the world. Learning these songs and the stories, gestures, rhythms and instruments that accompany them is a wonderful way to pray for the church around the world and to stretch your community experience toward new empathy for the piety of others.

How Churches Around the World Pray for Churches Around the World: How we pray in Argentina for churches around the world?

Nina Ciesilski
Dwight Kelly, Greendale, Bethel, Mt. Pleasant Charge of United Churches
Hanns Lessing PhD, World Communion of Reformed Churches
Gerardo Oberman, Reformed Churches in Argentina
Kathy Smith, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship
Ester P. Widiasih, World Council of Churches
Nicholas T. Wright, University of St. Andrews
Anne Zaki, Evangelical Theological Seminary

Intercessory prayer is an essential part of public worship, and we are called to pray for the flourishing of Christians all over the world. This seminar begins with a brief reflection by theologian N.T. Wright on Ephesians 6:18: “Pray . . . with all perseverance and intercession for all God’s holy ones. . . .” Then learn from church leaders from Argentina, Indonesia, Egypt, Jamaica, Germany, and Scotland about how their communities pray for the worldwide church, and also how they would like others to pray for them. Come to see the world from several different perspectives, from voices that come to us from beyond a North American context.

Innovation in Worship: Working with a Team to Make Healthy Changes

Jordan Clegg, Fellowship Reformed Church
Dawn B. Gibson, Peletah Ministries
Kathy Smith, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship
Jonathan Tamayo, Emmanuel Reformed Church
Jeff Wong, The Church of More Than 12

Listen to a diverse group of panelists from various churches across North America describe how they envisioned and led their congregations through changes in worship. We will consider the value of empowering members’ gifts in worship, and wisdom for healthy change processes. This seminar will be valuable for any church considering changes in worship.

Inviting the Text to Direct the Service

Joan DeVries, Tyndale University College and Seminary

Biblical text is central to Christian worship gatherings. Generally, the most significant piece of scripture is the focus of the sermon or the message, and worship planners are happy when they can match that theme in other parts of the worship gathering. What if, however, we invited the text with its various parts and movements to shape the whole of our service more concretely rather than have it be packaged as the teaching contained in a sermon? What if we adopted the movements within a psalm as the separate movements of our worship gathering and we enacted the psalm together? This workshop (for pastors, worship planners, musicians and brainstormers) will walk through several sample services before we brainstorm together.

Latin American Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

Alfredo Colman, Baylor University

Aimed at keyboardists as well as other instrumentalists, this workshop emphasizes basic and intermediate accompanying techniques such as re-harmonization and rhythmic variations, and applies them to specific examples that illustrate a variety of styles within the Latin American sacred music tradition.

Limelight and Christian Leadership

Rebecca K. DeYoung, Calvin College

Work in Christian ministry and worship leadership often brings a struggle with image, reputation, and audience-pleasing. In this workshop, we’ll learn about the vice of vainglory—both the patterns of its temptation to show off a false self and time-tested spiritual disciplines of resistance to this vice. In a world captivated with selfies and social media, we’ll explore virtuous practices that can help Christians handle the limelight well and show appreciation for each other in ways that glorify God.

Many Colors Pain the Rainbow: A Service of Scripture Proclamation, Choral, and Congregational Song

James Abbington, Candler School of Theology
Coro Polifónico
ACTion Choir
Calvin Alumni Choir

The Calvin College Alumni Choir collaborates with members of Coro Polifónico from the Seminario Internacional Teológico Bautista in Argentina and Artists Creating Together, a Grand Rapids-based choir that empowers individuals with disabilities to learn, grow, and celebrate through the arts to lead songs, hymns, and anthems which express our profound solidarity as members together of Christ’s body. How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!

Movement and Worship: An Experiential Engagement of Embodiment in Ministry

Cassandra Vander Well, Calvin College

From the earliest origins of the Judeo Christian tradition, dance and movement have been integral to the Christian life and faith practice, moving us individually and communally closer to the heart of God. This seminar will examine the history of liturgical/sacred dance in the church and how a biblical perspective on dance can inform current approaches to weaving movement into the fabric of Christian worship and ministry. Come ready to explore and engage these concepts through movement and dialogue.

Playing in Luke's Gospel

Joy-Elizabeth Lawrence, Calvin Theological Seminary

Though we often think of Bible study as serious business, adding an element of play into our exploration of scripture deepens our emotional connection to the text and can invite our congregations to experience God’s Word in a new way. In this hands-on seminar, we will explore and consider contextualized ways to present portions of Luke’s gospel in worship.

Program - 2017 Worship Symposium

2017 Worship Symposium

Revelation 4-5: The Songs in the Heavenly Throne Room

Trygve Johnson, Hope College

Revelation 7:9-17: The Great Multitude of God's People

Josiah Chung

Shaping a Congregation’s Worship DNA

Kevin Adams, Newbigin House of Studies

This workshop offers wisdom for designing and shaping the first year of worship in new and restart church settings, with practical and theological insights about how worship connects to the tradition, neighborhood, and persons of the church planting context, leader and team.

Short Songs: Deepening Our Participation In Worship

Alison Adam

Short songs do something different: they deepen, with music, the responses a congregation makes in an act of worship. Often tied to liturgical moments in a service, short songs enable us to gather, to pray, to prepare to hear God’s Word, to affirm, to go forth, to move, to rejoice. They tap into the emotion of worship songs, and they draw on the ancient tradition of chant, but they are neither contemporary nor traditional. We’ll sing about 10 of these songs, gathered by the Iona Community from their own writers and from the world church. They are easily led, enable harmony, and encourage the participation of all ages and abilities.

Silence and Beauty: Prayers for the Suffering Church

Makoto Fujimura, Fuller Theological Seminary
Lily Constantine Kakish
Joel Navarro, Singapore Bible College's School of Church Music
Gabriel Salguero
Eric Sarwar, Tehillim School of Church Music and Worship
Cassandra Vander Well, Calvin College
Anne Zaki, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

This Vesper/Prayer Service will focus on prayers for the suffering church, with testimonials, music, and artwork evoked by poignant experiences of faith in Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, Japan, and the United States.

Singing Psalms: An Outpouring of Contemporary Song for Congregational Use

Alison Adam
Alfredo Colman, Baylor University
Wendell Kimbrough
Greg Scheer, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship
Isaac Wardell, Bifrost Arts

Remarkably, even since the publication of Psalms for All Seasons just a few years ago, over 30 new Psalm-based songwriting and recording projects have emerged from a variety of contemporary worship leaders across North America and beyond. While some of these settings are designed for solo voices, many are well-suited to congregational use, and are worthy heirs to the legacy of congregation-based Psalms re-established by Luther and Calvin. Come to explore a variety of examples of this music, as well as the stories behind the songs. In addition, to consider new songs you might use in your context, come ready to explore how you can shape a worship culture in your context that is eager to embrace and explore the rich texts of the Biblical Psalms.

Singing the Psalms in a Modern Worship Setting

Wendell Kimbrough

The Psalms were written to be sung. But if your church favors guitar-led modern worship, how do you sing the Psalms? Songwriter Wendell Kimbrough’s pastor answered this question by asking him to write short Psalms refrains that are singable and memorable for his congregation. For the past two years, their church has engaged the Psalm through music each week, following the Revised Common Lectionary. In this workshop, Wendell will share some of the best-loved of these refrains and talk about his church’s journey learning to sing and love the Psalms.

Teenage Youth Worship Leaders: Wisdom for Teenagers and Those Who Mentor Them

Eric L. Mathis, Samford University

“Sometimes, it’s so awkward to stand in front of your friends and lead them in worship,” a teenager recently said. It may be awkward at times, but it’s also an unfathomable privilege that comes with much responsibility. This workshop, designed with teenagers and their mentors in mind, will focus on the task and responsibility of leading worship when those closest to us are present. More importantly, this workshop will remind us all of the ways God fits into the work of teenagers seeking to be an example in speech, behavior, love, life, and purity.

The Contemplative Worship Leader

Paul Ryan, Calvin College

Parker Palmer writes, “At root, contemplation and action are the same.” For worship leaders, a deep well of spiritual practice is vital amid the activity and demands of worship leadership. But as the anxious and hurried, our spirituality is often found wanting. New and ancient patterns in Christ’s Spirit, however, are available to worship leaders, and in this workshop we will together explore how to find life and vitality in our diverse contexts and through our varied our personalities.

The Great Prayer of Thanksgiving at Baptism and the Lord's Supper

John D. Witvliet, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

In the past 40 years, many Protestant communions have recovered a robust, historically-oriented prayer of thanksgiving at celebrations of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Nearly every official denominational liturgical publication has featured strong examples of this practice. Yet thousands of local congregations do not practice this for a variety of reasons, including concern over the length of the service, and—quite likely—not really understanding the spiritually formative power of this practice for the daily life and faith of Christian believers. This session will feature a robust testimony about the value of this ancient practice, deeply rooted in the Psalms, and present flexible and creative ideas for local communities in a variety of contexts to embrace this practice.

The Promise and Peril of Preaching for Revival: Lessons from the Life of George Whitefield

Peter Choi, City Church San Francisco

Seasons of renewal are God’s gift to the church. They are also occasions for controversy and division. Together we will reflect on one of history’s greatest revival preachers to understand not only how revivals come but what follows in their aftermath. “God’s anointed barnstormer,” according to J. I. Packer, and “the greatest English preacher who has ever lived,” in the estimation of Martin Lloyd-Jones, George Whitefield also made crucial mistakes and had his fair share of regrets. To pay attention to the long duration of this famous preacher’s life is to learn both the promise and peril of revivals in the church.

The Sun Rises in the East: New Congregational Songs from Asian Composers

Joel Navarro, Singapore Bible College's School of Church Music

This session features new congregational songs and music for church choir from young composers in Southeast Asia whose works are currently making waves in many parts of the world. This session is recommended for choir directors and singers who are looking for fresh ideas for regular worship, intercultural worship, or church choir repertoire.

Trauma, Culture Care and Public Worship

David M. Bailey, Arrabon
Makoto Fujimura, Fuller Theological Seminary
Danjuma Gibson, Calvin Theological Seminary
Chineta Goodjoin
Gabriel Salguero
John D. Witvliet

What does faithful ministry look like after trauma? What if that trauma is public trauma, like ministry after 9-11 in New York or after recent trauma in Ferguson or Orlando? Hear testimonies and reflections from those who shaped liturgical responses to these events in both “ground zeros” of these kinds of events, as well as in communities who were far removed geographically from them, but who were close in spirit. Ponder the intersection of preaching, worship, pastoral care, and arts ministries for redemptive responses to local, national, and international trauma.

Trumpets, Ashes, and Tears: New Psalmody for the Journey of Faith

Tony Alonso, Emory University
Marty Haugen, Mayflower United Church of Christ
Wendell Kimbrough
Isaac Wardell, Bifrost Arts
Lisa M. Weaver, Columbia Theological Seminary

Songwriters with ministries of writing congregation-friendly settings of the biblical Psalms lead us in sung prayer, along with scripture readings and intercessions focused on ministering to the needs, challenges, and vocation of worship leaders, artists of all kinds, and pastors.

Tú Jesús, nuestra esperanza/Come to Be Our Hope, Jesus

Alfredo Colman, Baylor University
Carlos Colón, Baylor University
Coro Polifónico

A bilingual pilgrimage of songs and prayers that trace the life of Jesus and testify to healing and transformation which Jesus’ ministry continues to bring through the Holy Spirit. The service will feature songs for both choir and congregation from Latin America, led by Coro Polifónico from the Seminario Internacional Teológico Bautista from Argentina, including several being prepared for use in bilingual English-Spanish language communities in North America.

Universal Design, Responsive Design: Keys for Welcoming Persons with Varied Abilities

Benjamin T. Conner, Western Theological Seminary
Melissa Conner, Western Theological Seminary
Barbara J. Newman, CLC Network
Karen Roberts PhD, Joni and Friends Chicago
Reginald Smith, Christian Reformed Church in North America

Worshipers and congregation members certainly do not come in a “one size fits all” wrapping! As you gather for worship you will notice an array of gifts, but you may also see the areas of struggle each one brings to the community. How do worship planners and pastors best weave in best practices for including each one in the conversation with God in worship? Join us as we highlight ideas to get your congregation launched in the right direction as you include members with disabilities.

Unlocking the Mysteries of Church Sound Systems

Greg Scheer, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

Of the many hats worship musicians and pastors wear, “sound system purchaser and troubleshooter” may be the most uncomfortable. Nonetheless, your understanding of how a sound system works could have a huge impact on your congregation’s ability to hear the preaching and take part in singing. This session will teach you about microphones, channel strips, speaker placement, and a myriad of other subjects that likely weren’t included in your seminary or music education.

What Makes Christian Worship Trinitarian?

Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

The doctrine of the Trinity is old, deep, and mysterious. How should Christian trinitarianism manifest itself in worship—that is, beyond simple repetition of the trinitarian formula? How might deep trinitarian worship bless God and ourselves? How might it even affect the way we look at each other after worship is over?

Worship 201: Giving Witness to the Urgent

Eric L. Mathis, Samford University
Paul Ryan, Calvin College

A critical task of 21st century worship leadership is to name pressing issues, and give confident witness to the reality of God’s presence in sometimes difficult circumstances. In this seminar, we will identify pressing issues in local and global worshiping communities. Then we will engage past and present worshiping communities as case studies to identify their approach to urgent issues. Finally we will imagine how these communities might teach us about giving confident witness to those issues that are urgent in our time and place.

Worship: The Embodied Moment for Self and Church Community

Kathleen S. Turner, St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church

The guiding question for this workshop is: How can movement gesture enhance the worship of God in ways that are whole, imaginative and fulfilling for both the individual and the collective church body? This workshop will explore the ways in which song, word, prayer, liturgical materials and movement gesture meet within the worship experience. It will pay particular attention to the use of the body as an expressive instrument that embodies and displays reflective thought and honest emotion during the worship moment. This workshop welcomes participants to wear comfortable clothing and shoes in order to explore various worship movements that are both simple and thoughtful.