Calvin Worship Symposium: A Powerful Experience

Thursday, February 20, 2014

“God’s Word moves and challenges us. Because of this, we can design the worship gathering as a journey that takes God’s people somewhere,” says Joan DeVries, Dean of Students at Tyndale Seminary.

Recently, Joan led a team of Tyndale students and faculty to the 2014 Calvin Worship Symposium. The symposium is sponsored by the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship (CICW) and the Center for Excellence in Preaching, which is part of Calvin College & Seminary. The trip was made possible through a $12,000 worship renewal grant that Tyndale received from the CICW in May 2013.

Students who travelled to Grand Rapids, Michigan for the event were Adam Hoskins, Chapel Worship Coordinator, Jason Normore and William Jones, Worship Interns at Tyndale. Faculty who joined the team were Dr. Charlene Pauls, Adjunct Professor at Tyndale University College, and Dr. Kevin Livingston, Associate Professor of Pastoral Ministry at Tyndale Seminary.

Every year the symposium focuses on a biblical theme. This year’s theme was the book of Exodus. From “Hip Hop, Youth Culture and the Gospel in Kenya,” to “Art in the Service of the Liturgy,” the seminars included a diverse range of topics.

Joan attended a seminar on indigenous worship. Led by a group of Navajo Christians, the seminar talked about “the journey of Navajo believers and their struggle to contextualize worship for their own people and to find an authentic Navajo voice for worship.”

Another highlight was a workshop where a team from Northwestern College presented a Dramatic Reading. They memorized whole sections from Exodus and added movement, song and even some chanting to the presentation. “It was completely mesmerizing,” says Joan.

One of the biggest takeaways for the group was understanding the power of God’s Word. “If we take care of its presentation, we will be able to hear the Word in fresh, new, and more powerful ways.”

When it comes to worship, Joan says there is always a tension for students between authenticity and excellence. “In some traditions authenticity is equated with spontaneity and the Spirit, while other traditions might focus on excellence, which can mean taking a more pre-planned approach to the worship service.”

Intentionality was a major theme Joan and the group noticed when it comes to coordinating worship services. “When a worship service is intentionally planned and carefully put together – because the Spirit can work three weeks beforehand as well – it can be a powerful service. It doesn’t have to be unstructured for the Spirit to move,” says Joan.

Coming away from the conference, these are the sort of tensions that Joan is teaching worship teams to balance so that they can help enrich the worship experiences of God’s people.


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