December 23, 2021 | Matt Kucinski

A person seated in a dark chapel with the cross illuminated in the front.

Step onto Calvin’s campus and you’ll find recognized scholars, New York Times best-selling authors, world-renowned theologians, and National Championship-winning coaches.

There’s no question that when the presidential search committee was tasked with finding Calvin’s 11th president, they had a talented pool of people who are at or near the top of their fields to call on as ambassadors.

But it was not the intellectual prowess, but rather the posture of the community, that’s of greatest value to the committee’s work.

“Nobody at Calvin knows the mind of God, he must reveal his plans in the hearts of people. And that happens when we seek him,” said Mary Tuuk Kuras, vice chair of the Calvin University Board of Trustees, who is also chairing Calvin’s presidential search committee. “Prayer is a tangible way to change one’s posture.”

Equipped to pray

The 15-member search team is nearing the close of the application phase of its international search for Calvin’s next president. And while searches for leadership and faculty and staff positions are always bathed in prayer at Calvin University, this search added an element of intentionality.

From the onset of the search, the committee has provided a weekly Biblical text, prayerful response, musical reflection, and a blessing, as a tangible way to help lead the community through discerning God’s leading. Members of the search committee, faculty, staff, and students have all contributed.

“We still ourselves to be with God and to listen for God’s voice,” said Michelle Loyd-Paige, executive associate to the president for diversity and inclusion and a member of the search committee. “We lead with prayer as an act of obedience to the Word; we lead with prayer as an act of humility and reliance on a power much greater and wiser than ourselves.”

Avoiding pitfalls

John Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and a member of the search committee, also highlights the value of contemplating the many stories of vocational discernment throughout the Bible rather than focusing on only one or two.

“There are pitfalls in thinking ‘God worked in so and so’s life in this way, so God must work in everyone’s life in that way,” said Witvliet. “If we look across the entire Bible, we discover a remarkable anthology of calling stories—each with unique features. Some are dramatic, some not; some play to a person’s strengths, some come to people in spite of their weaknesses. Prayerfully reflecting on the full range of narratives can help open our eyes to discern more faithfully the Holy Spirit’s work today.”

Ongoing practice of prayer

While the weekly “Praying for God’s leading” resources are being prepared to coincide with the presidential search, the committee hopes that these resources will be used regularly.

“At Calvin, we don’t just want to teach our students about vocation, we want to inhabit a central practice that helps us all discern our vocations,” said Witvliet.

“Whether it be a faculty or staff member, a current student, prospective student, or a parent, hundreds of people every day on campus are facing vocational choices,” said Kuras. “We hope this resource, while created initially for the current presidential search that is underway, will be something we all use to help in seeking God’s leading in our lives and in the communities of which we are a part.”

“Our leading with prayer is an acknowledgment of our need for God’s leading and guidance,” said Loyd-Paige.

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