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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21 Spirituals for the 21st Century

Raymond Wise PhD, Indiana University

The Negro Spiritual has been hailed as American’s first authentic folk music. Spirituals have served as a primary musical source from which many sacred and secular musical genres have stemmed. The “Spiritual” itself has evolved into many forms. There are oral, concert, art song, congregational, and gospel spirituals, and each has its own unique musical characteristics that have helped to preserve the Spiritual as a musical form. Come learn more about Spirituals, hear and sing some traditional spirituals and experience contemporary spiritual arrangements from Raymond Wise’s collection of 21 Spirituals for the 21st Century.

A New Song. A Skillful Song.

Sandra McCracken
Greg Scheer, Church of the Servant
Adam M. L. Tice

Those of us who feel Psalm 33’s call to write new songs must remember that the Psalm also tells us to play skillfully. In this seminar we will focus on the skills of songwriting for congregations, digging into what it means to balance inspiration and perspiration. Join critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter Sandra McCracken and widely-published hymn writer Adam Tice as they speak with Greg Scheer about their approaches to creating new texts, new tunes, and the combining of texts and tunes. The afternoon will be spent discussing participants’ song submissions. Attendees of all levels and musical styles will benefit from this seminar.

Bad Worship in the Bible

Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Calvin Theological Seminary

Dirkie Smits, eminent South African theologian, has observed that virtually every book of the Bible condemns bad worship—which is likely to be some odious combination of idolatrous, hypocritical, or careless. Concretely, what does the Bible have to say about bad worship? And how might we strive to learn from what it says and adjust our own worship practices accordingly?

Compare and Contrast: Learning from the Visual Arts across Christian Traditions

Lisa J. DeBoer, Westmont College

Many Protestant congregations are eagerly and actively working to recover the riches of the visual realm to deepen their worship and communal life. And while much good work and learning is occurring within these congregations, what might we learn from a close examination of the how the visual arts function in Orthodox and Catholic settings? This session highlights three theological questions regarding worship and congregational life, raised by a cross-confessional comparison of the role of the visual arts.

Do You Know Where You're Going To? A Glimpse of the Next Generation of Congregational Song

Swee Hong Lim, Emmanuel College

This workshop will explore the next generation of congregational song. This emerging genre occupies a soundscape of music-making where its character is postmodern in the West and postcolonial in the Global South. It seeks to revitalize local, cultural traditions in a myriad of communities’ efforts of meaning-making in the 21st century. This is a guided conversation time where participants are encouraged to share their perspectives and observations. Musical examples will be shared.

Heartsongs for Good Friday and Easter: Insights and Inspiration from Worshiping Communities Across North American and Around the World

Robert J. Batastini
Judith Laoyan-Mosomos, Methodist School of Music
Swee Hong Lim, Emmanuel College
Emmet G. Price III, Northeastern University
Raymond Wise PhD, Indiana University
John D. Witvliet, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is at the center of Christian faith, life, and worship. Every Good Friday and Easters, Christians from all over the world gather in remarkably different contexts to tell this story—and sing about what it means for us and the world God loves. During this session, panelists will be asked to choose two songs from their ministry context which unpack the significant of Jesus’ death and resurrection—songs which are deeply loved and that poignantly express the meaning of these events. Come to discover some new songs that you will want to sing, to glimpse the beauty of Christ’s church in variety of ministry contexts, and to see again the power and beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

How Can Art Bring About Such a Great Thing?

David McNutt, InterVarsity Press Academic

How can a consideration of one of the most divisive issues during the Reformation helpfully inform the church’s corporate worship today? Questions surrounding the theology and practice of the church’s sacraments—including their number, their nature, and their function—were among the most hotly contested issues during the Reformation. Likewise, the category of sacrament has been appealed to in recent considerations of the arts and their place in the life of the church. In this session, participants will consider what we can learn from the sacramental life of the Reformed church and how that can inform our understanding of the potential role of the arts in its worship today.

How the News Shapes Our Prayers and Preaching: Deepening our Lovign Engagement with the World God Loves

Elizabeth Dias, TIME
Richard J. Mouw, Fuller Theological Seminary
John D. Witvliet, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship
Anne Zaki, Evangelical Theological Seminary

If our public prayers and preaching are at all responsive to the needs of the world, then how we glean information about the world is crucial. Whether through new or old media, journalists have a key role to play in whether and how we pray and preach about everything from the persecution of Christians, conflict in the Middle East, creation care, and abortion to local concerns related to public education and social services. Join a conversation with a leading national journalist (Elizabeth Dias), a public theologian (Richard Mouw), and a seminary professor and preacher (Anne Zaki) that can inform your own engagement with the world God loves.

How to Commission Liturgical Art

Jeanne Logan

Jeanne will show examples of her own commissioned work as well as outstanding examples of the work of others. She will then focus on the nuts and bolts of commissioning a work of liturgical art: what does the artist expect from you and what you should expect from the artist.

Imagining Liturgical Art for Your Worship Space

Jeanne Logan

This seminar will explore the possibilities of liturgical art for the participants’ own worship spaces. Participants will send in images of a space for which they are interested in creating a meaningful artistic liturgical environment. After seeing examples of Jeanne’s commissioned work and that of others, the group will discuss various options for utilizing their own spaces and what media might be used. Consideration will be given to both the liturgical season and the character and needs of the congregation.

Learning to Worship for the Life of the World

Steven Guthrie, Belmont University School of Religion

For the Life of the World is one of the most influential books ever written on the sacraments. But this classic text by the Orthodox theologian Alexander Schmemann encompasses all of the Christian experience, inviting the reader into a pattern of “sacramental living.” This seminar will provide an accessible introduction to For the Life of the World and will think about how its vision might shape our worship and our lives.

Liturgy That Cares

Howard Vanderwell, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

Some call it the “preliminaries,” some hastily put it together, and others have very elaborate liturgies. This sectional is built on the conviction that it’s time to take a thorough new look at the pastoral power of the order of worship. We will try to identify the needs worshipers bring to church, and we’ll examine the liturgy with an eye to finding the best ways to meet those needs. Our goal is the development of liturgies that join with the sermon in providing pastoral care.

Marking Time: Dressing the Church for the Liturgical Year

Deborah Sokolove, Sweley Theological Seminary

The seasons and special days of the church year are often marked visually by artworks that come and go. In this session we will examine art as a congregational practice in which both adults and children produce banners, paraments, installations, and other occasional artworks that take their place in the worship space alongside those elements that are permanent. Participants are encouraged to send images of what their own congregations do to dress their churches as a way of marking liturgical time.

Preaching to the Streets – Homiletics for Urban Ministry

Reginald Smith PhD, Roosevelt Park Community Church

How can the Bible speak to the hopes and fears of urban people who don’t know anything about the Christian life? This workshop will provide biblical case studies and principles for preaching to people who struggle with bringing the ancient text to the struggles of life today.

Preparing to Remember the Reformation

Robert J. Batastini
Peter Choi, City Church San Francisco
Karin Maag, H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies
David McNutt, InterVarsity Press Academic
Mark Noll, University of Notre Dame
Lisa Weaver, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship
John D. Witvliet, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship
Joyce Ann Zimmerman PhD, Institute for Liturgical Ministry

In 2017, churches around the world, both Protestant and Catholic, will mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. How we mark this milestone will say as much about us, and our own sense of identity, as it does about the events of five centuries ago. Indeed, the history of past milestone anniversaries (100, 200, 300, and 400 years ago) reveals stunningly different ways of remembering this history—and some crucial lessons about what to avoid this time around. Come for a fast-paced tour of histories of the Reformation and vigorous discussion by both Protestant and Catholic leaders about how we can do our remembering in profoundly sanctifying ways.

Revitalized Worship Spaces

Michael J. Crosbie PhD, Faith and Form

Renovated, restored, and reborn sacred spaces are the wave of the future, as congregations revitalize their aging facilities, move into spaces once occupied by other denominations and faith traditions, and retrofit religious buildings to serve new uses. This presentation will focus on religious buildings and facilities that have been given a new lease on life thanks to creative and inventive designs that make them vital to changing demands as congregations change and evolve.

Sanctifying Art: Inviting Conversation Between Artists, Theologians, and the Church

Deborah Sokolove, Sweley Theological Seminary

In her book, Sanctifying Art, Deborah Sokolove offers ways to understand the arts as a way of thinking and understanding, as a tool for healing the broken places in the world, and even as a divinely ordained means of grace. To sanctify an object or an activity is to set it aside for divine purposes, to purify it, to make it holy. Similarly, individuals and even communities are said to be sanctified when they live in close alignment with God’s will. Art is one of the activities that human beings have been given to aid in the process of sanctification. In order to do that, we need to think clearly about what art is, the role of artists in the community, and how the arts affect those who participate in them, both as makers and as audience.

Sing the Peaceful Kingdom

Adam M. L. Tice

Singing the Great Fifty Days

Zebulon M. Highben, Muskingum University

Easter Sunday is the beginning of the church’s longest festival: the Great Fifty Days of Easter. Yet it can be a musical challenge to connect the exuberance of Easter Sunday with the season’s culmination at Pentecost. This workshop presents ideas for musically and liturgically unifying the Easter season while highlighting each Sunday’s individual lessons and themes. Hymns, canticles, and choral repertoire from several publishers will be featured.

Singing with Martin Luther and the Lutherans

Worship Symposium 2016
Mark Noll, University of Notre Dame

This workshop is designed to explore the riches of Lutheran hymnody for those, like Professor Noll, who are not themselves Lutherans. We will take a quick historical journey to note important landmarks. The rest of the session will take advantage of one of the recently published American Lutheran hymnals to explore the contours of contemporary Lutheran song. The hope is to help those outside the Lutheran tradition appreciate its historical richness and think about exploiting those riches to enliven worship in all traditions.

The Doorway to a New World: The Gracious Power of Baptism in the Christian Life

Lisa Weaver, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

What a remarkable event baptism is: at once a sign of our being washed clean, a sign of rebirth, and a sign of our dying and rising with Jesus. How can we celebrate baptisms in ways that convey this grace, this depth, and this mystery? How can we best mentor, teach, and encourage those who are baptized, whether as adults or children? Come to learn from a student of worship who has learned from Baptists, Presbyterians, and Roman Catholic communities, and whose research is unpacking the power of early church baptismal practices.

The Formative Power of Art and Architecture in Worship

Michael J. Crosbie PhD, Faith and Form
Lisa DeBoer, Westmont College

Hear from two experts whose work puts them in touch with a wide variety of worshiping communities across North America. First, art historian Lisa DeBoer will share insights from her forthcoming book, The Visual Arts in the Worshiping Church (Eerdmans), about how Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant worshipers relate to the meaning of art in such different ways. Then, Michael Crosbie, editor of Faith and Form, will take us on a memorable tour of recently built or renovated award-wining worship spaces, taking note of the underlying motivation and artistic vision of master architects and the congregations they work with. This is an ideal session not only for artists and architects, but also for people engaged in other forms of ministry, especially those who are eager learners about the cultures that shape communities.

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.

Understanding Your Congregation's Unique Worship Culture

Monique M. Ingalls, Baylor University

Each local congregation has its own unique history, geographical and social location, demographic makeup, and mission. As worship leaders, we need to understand each of these aspects of our local church’s “worship culture” in order to choose and adapt worship resources that engage the mind, heart, and spirit of our congregation members. This workshop introduces models and methods from the social sciences, including ethnography, interviewing, and structured observation, that we can use to explore these dynamics within our congregations. It then highlights practical ways how we can use the insights we glean from these methods to more deeply understand and engage our congregations.

Universal Design for Worship

Barbara J. Newman, Christian Learning Center Network

“Universal design” is now standard for architecture: we don’t want to retrofit buildings to make them accessible, we want to build them that way from the start. What would it look like for this vision to be extended to the worship services we plan and lead? What if we didn’t need to retrofit our planning to be accommodating to persons at all levels of ability and disability, but planned them that way from the start?

What Does World Christianity Mean for Your Church?

Peter Choi, City Church San Francisco

The remarkable story of Christianity’s growth as a world religion has implications not only for mission work in the far corners of the globe but also for ministry in each local congregation. In what ways is the gospel—to use Andrew Walls’ terms—a “prisoner” as well as “liberator” of culture? What does faithful Christian ministry look like in our increasingly pluralistic contexts? How can sacramental worship speak to secular skeptics? In this workshop, we will explore key lessons for the life of your church that emerge from the spread of Christianity across the world.

Wisdom for Leading through Changes in Worship in Diverse Communities

Michael C. Chen, LaSalle Street Church
Steven Guthrie, Belmont University School of Religion
John Huizinga, Lombard Christian Reformed Church
Maria Monteiro, Baptist University of the Américas
Kathy Smith, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

Is your worshiping community facing change in worship and looking for wisdom and advice? Do you believe change is needed in your worship and wonder how to initiate it in healthy ways? In this session a panel of leaders who have introduced and managed change in worship in very different worshiping communities will share their wisdom, stories and best practices. From smaller and larger churches and universities, these leaders have experienced the joys and challenges of leading authentic worship in changing communities that vary denominationally, racially, in size, and in local context. The panel will be moderated by Kathy Smith, manager for the Vital Worship Grants Program, and will include representatives of two universities and two congregations that have engaged in Vital Worship grant projects.

Wording the Sunday Sermon

Cornelius Plantinga Jr., Calvin Theological Seminary

One of the preacher’s big challenges is finding language for the Sunday sermon that will engage the most of her or his listeners. But what kind of language is that? What are some of its features? Using multiple examples from published sermons, this workshop will identify, discuss, and recommend certain excellent features of well-worded Sunday sermons.

Worship 101: Principles and Practices for Song & Discipleship

Eric Mathis, Samford University
Paul Ryan, Calvin College

Learning to lead worship encompasses what you do and who you are. It entails spirituality as much as it requires skill. In this seminar, we will explore two vital practices of worship leadership: choosing songs and presenting scripture. Along the way we will discuss how we engage these practices as a matter of discipleship, identify cultural trends that resist our efforts, and recommend habits for faithful and healthy leadership.

Worship and Citizenship in an Age of Divisive Politics

One of our callings as Christians is to live as resourceful and redemptive citizens of the countries in which we live—a vexing challenge in an age of political division in so many countries around the world represented at the Symposium. How should preaching, public prayer, and other aspects of worship relate to this? How can music and other artworks contribute to sanctifying and redemptive approaches? How does worship form us for faithful citizenship without becoming politicized? What might this look like not only in the United States and Canada, but also in Cairo and Singapore?

Worship and Public Engagement

Richard J. Mouw, Fuller Theological Seminary

That corporate worship must equip us for serving God’s purposes in the world, certainly means that we must attend to the social-political-economic dimensions of our lives as citizens. How do we structure our congregational patterns with this in mind without making our worship “too political”? What are the proper ways of preaching, praying, singing, and catechizing about the obligations of citizenship? We will focus in this workshop on preaching during times of political controversy, on the use of “patriotic hymns,” and other practical—but challenging—concerns that emerge in our efforts to be biblical faithful in planning worship.

Worship with Gladness: Beginning a Conversation about Worship's Deep Meaning

Joyce Ann Zimmerman PhD, Institute for Liturgical Ministry

We might lament that the religious culture in society is in decline. Or we can raise glad hearts that many people are intensely committed to the deep meaning and purpose of worship. This workshop will explore key issues for worship today, elements of worship, God’s Word in worship, baptismal identity and worship, and the relation of worship to everyday living.