January 26, 2022 | Shelly DeJong

The 35th annual Symposium on Worship will welcome guests from around the world to join online and in person from January 31 to February 4, 2022. This diverse group will worship and learn together for the free week-long gathering hosted by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW) and the Center for Excellence in Preaching (CEP) located at Calvin Theological Seminary.

With more than 70 speakers and contributors, the week will be full of worship services, group discussions, and a variety of learning sessions around the theme of the Beatitudes.

“For a number of years, we have anchored the preaching and worship service themes for Symposium to a significant book of biblical scholarship. This year, we’ve chosen The Beatitudes through the Ages by Rebekah Eklund. It inspired us to use a combination of the Beatitudes of Jesus from Matthew and Luke to become the texts for the preachers at our primary worship services,” said Scott Hoezee, the director of CEP. “We are also glad that Rebekah Eklund will herself be part of this symposium so that together we can learn even more from her in-depth study of Jesus' Beatitudes. The Beatitudes help us to answer a key question of discipleship: What does it look like to live like Jesus?”

With the ongoing pandemic, the symposium has adapted and thought creatively about what new opportunities meeting online presents.

“Typically, when we meet in person, we used English as the common language to bring different people together at different tables. But for some, this was an impediment since not everyone is able to speak English,” said Maria Cornou, associate director and program manager for the CICW. “With group meetings happening virtually this year, we’re able to offer the option to meet in groups speaking Chinese Cantonese, Korean, Spanish, and English.”

While these group conversations will be held on Zoom, there are a variety of worship and learning opportunities that will be offered both online and in-person. Each attendee can choose what works best for them upon registration.

Classes in Session Leads to Catalytic Connection

For the first time in its 35-year history, the Worship Symposium will occur while Calvin’s classes are in session due to second semester classes beginning a few weeks earlier this year. With this in mind, the Symposium wanted to explore what new opportunities this allowed for inviting students in.

“We wanted to meet students where they are,” said Alexis VanZalen, program coordinator for the CICW. “So, we invited faculty and staff to put together proposals for ways to integrate the discussion of worship into their classrooms or meetings in order to talk about the connection between worship and whatever discipline or topic that they study. The idea is really Calvin’s philosophy that all of our learning can be integrated with our lives of worship.”

During the week of the symposium, 15 faculty members from a variety of departments will explore in their classrooms the connections between the church’s public worship practices and their course topic.

The topics that will be discussed are diverse and unique to each class. Students in Professor Kate Strater’s education class will explore inclusive worship practices done successfully in churches to see how students can apply these approaches in their classrooms. Professor Julie Wildschut and her engineering students will look at space utilization and energy use in churches throughout the semester. Professor Darrell Rohl’s history class will examine historical texts and artifacts to learn how living Christian communities are connected to ancient community practices.

“Our work at CICW is not simply about what churches do on Sunday, but also about the catalytic connections between those practices and everything else,” said Dr. John Witvliet, director of the CICW.

Registration for the free Symposium on Worship will remain open through February 4. More details can be found on the symposium’s website.

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