July 08, 2009 | Allison Graff

Calvin College will celebrate a milestone birthday in honor of its namesake, John Calvin, this week.

Calvin College will celebrate a milestone birthday in honor of its namesake, John Calvin, this week.
The 16th-century Protestant Reformer was born on July 10, 1509, making this year his 500th. The college has been making plans for over a year and a half to commemorate the occasion.

At the forefront of the planning efforts is Karin Maag, director of the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies. In addition to participating in worldwide efforts to honor the Reformer, Maag has been planning John Calvin-related events specifically for the Calvin community.

The week's events, including a Genevan Psalm sing-along on Thursday evening and numerous events on Friday, July 10, have been organized by the Meeter Center and Alumni Office, along with representatives from the music department and the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. 

"It takes a lot of work from a team of people to have all the events run smoothly," Maag said.

Calvin College has a tradition of celebrating John Calvin's birthday each year with a cake and commemorative speech, but this year a panel presentation, the Genevan Psalm Sing and an open house at the Meeter Center were added to the roster of events.
On Tuesday, July 7, the Meeter Center co-sponsored a panel presentation at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, "John Calvin: his Life, Thought and Relevance." During that event, Maag spoke on "Calvin the Man: Dispelling the Myths." Other presenters included Calvin Seminary's Richard Muller speaking on the question "Was Calvin a Calvinist?" and Grand Rapids Theological Seminary's Michael Wittmer speaking on "The Emergent Church in the Hands of John Calvin." 

Thursday, July 9 brings a Genevan Psalm sing-along to the Calvin Seminary Chapel, featuring organist David Williams from Notre Dame. The evening will include a presentation on the background of Genevan Psalm singing, a time of singing and refreshments.
On Friday, July 10, faculty, staff, students and visitors will convene at 10 a.m. in the Hoogenboom Health and Recreation Center for the traditional birthday party for John Calvin. This year's celebration will feature a special video created for the event by Calvin's communications and marketing office. Directly following the party will be an all-day open house at the Meeter Center with educational displays, rare book viewings, a John Calvin quiz and two presentations. At 11 a.m., Meeter Center Curator Paul Fields will present on John Calvin and early modern printing. A 2 p.m. presentation by Maag will cover John Calvin and his impact.

Maag commented on the significance of the events for the Calvin College community: 
"Marking John Calvin's birthday at Calvin College seems like a great fit. It's a way of highlighting the legacy of the Reformer, increasing awareness of John Calvin and his role in the Reformation, and helping the college community and the wider community become more informed."

Recent stories