March 19, 2024 | Matt Kucinski

Calvin University’s literary extravaganza, the Festival of Faith & Writing, returns in person to Grand Rapids on April 11-13, after a long COVID hiatus. Put on by the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing (CCFW), it has been a signature event of the university since 1990. Over three days, the Festival welcomes 80+ writers and hundreds and hundreds of attendees from across the nation and around the world to celebrate the intersection of faith and writing, both broadly defined. This year, a separately ticketed Workshop Wednesday is also available.

Household names & hidden gems

Pulitzer-prize winning authors like Anthony Doerr and Tracy K. Smith, PEN/Hemingway Award winner Yaa Gyasi, former presidential speechwriter Sarah Hurwitz, and New York Times religion columnist Ruth Graham, are among the distinguished writers who exemplify that broad range of genres and diverse faith perspectives who will be featured at the 2024 Festival.

One of the Festival’s distinctives is that it has always featured a range of writers. Says Jennifer L. Holberg, co-director of the CCFW and a professor of English at Calvin University, “We have had famous people who have won Pulitzers and Nobels, but we also have new and emerging authors, and we have mid-career authors, too, writing everything from poetry to podcasts. Every single Festival, I leave with new favorites, people I’d never thought to read writing in genres with which I’m less familiar. It’s the joy of discovery that lies at the heart of the liberal arts. At Festival, you have access to 80-plus writers in person, and we hope by interacting with them, you’ll go away having added to your reading/listening stack and become a bigger-hearted person.”

Curating better conversations

But according to the organizers, it’s an event that not only highlights great writing, but also speaks into the current need for better conversation. The gathering encourages meaningful discussion and shared discovery among people with different religious beliefs and practices.


“We live these curated lives,” added Jane Zwart, the Center’s other co-director and also a Calvin University English professor. “I don’t have to listen to anything I don’t want to listen to. I hear exactly what I want to hear because the algorithm feeds me more of that. That’s part of the problem: ironically as the world has opened up to us, our world has become much smaller.”

Instead, for the past three-plus decades, Calvin University’s Festival has been opening doors and asking people to step through them into brave spaces and to engage challenging ideas together in community.

“We are the anti-algorithm. We give you a space to break out of what it is that you are always going to hear,” said Zwart.

Thinking well together

Holberg and Zwart have seen over many years how the Festival’s rich mix of lectures, readings, conversations, and workshops have led to deeper engagement and to discovering more common ground—with faith the key component.

“This is capacity building over three days,” said Zwart. “Like the January Series, there are lots of points of view represented at Festival. We aren’t asking you to embrace any or all of them, but rather inviting you to think well together. We are intellectually brave here because we know our God is so big. There’s no reason to be afraid, God is big enough for all our questions. We want people to be change makers because they aren’t afraid to ask hard questions.”

“What attendees start to see every Festival are commonalities, that we actually agree on more than we think we do,” said Holberg. “Hospitality is our number one value at Festival. We want to provide a comfortable space for uncomfortable conversations.”

But, both Holberg and Zwart emphasize, as heady as the conversations are, the Festival of Faith & Writing is a gigantic literary party, too. “It’s just great fun to be together,” says Holberg. “We can’t wait to have everyone back together!”

Join In

Registration for Workshop Wednesday and the Festival of Faith & Writing closes on Friday, March 22. To register, visit

Individual and package tickets for the evening plenary events are available through the Calvin Box Office through April 13.

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