What’s a “WA?”

Photo+by+Claire+Niemeier

Photo by Claire Niemeier

Each year, Calvin worship is planned, organized and led by a group of 6–8 students as part of the Worship Apprentice (WA) program. WAs grow in their leadership skills, worship experience and faith life as they prayerfully craft worship services, lead worship teams, receive mentoring and serve in many other capacities.

According to Paul Ryan, associate chaplain for worship at Calvin, the worship apprentice program originated as part of the Lilly Vocation Project, which sought to help students discern their call to ministry. The first WA team was created in 2002. This year’s WA team is composed of eight students from a variety of majors and backgrounds.

Ben DeMaso, a junior WA studying business and French, is already loving his new position. “I’m learning about all the different elements and complexities of worship, especially worship from other cultures.” DeMaso has also learned that “worship doesn’t only consist of the music we play in services; it is anything we do that glorifies God.”

Ruth Vanden Bos, a senior WA studying violin performance, said, “Since I’m a music major, I view the worship apprentice role as a new, wonderfully relevant way to invest myself and my field of study in the Calvin community.”

There are many things that the WAs, along with their mentor, Ryan, are looking forward to in the year ahead. “I am excited about the opportunity to plan worship around the book of Revelation,” says Ryan. “I am excited about our Belong chapels and what the WAs will learn about worship in diverse cultures from the leaders of these chapels. I am excited to see them grow in greater and greater confidence and ability throughout the year. They are already doing a fantastic job.”

DeMaso says that in addition to being excited about experimenting with different types of worship music, he is looking forward to many of the events that the WA team does together, “such as beach trips, sailing or competing for the title of WAffice troll. It’s wonderful to be part of such a tight group of great people on campus.”

Despite the ample opportunities for fun, there are challenges that accompany being a worship apprentice. Being a WA is more than coordinating and leading worship teams; it also includes working behind-the-scenes to make Calvin worship happen. Ryan says that one of the challenging aspects of his job is “helping everyone at the beginning of the fall semester understand and follow the basic tasks that are needed behind the scenes to prepare rehearsals and lead services. There are just so many things, and it is a challenge to help everyone learn, remember and follow through on them all.” Some of these tasks include setting up chapel signs before 8 a.m., setting up coffee and cookies before LOFT, editing slide shows and drafting music arrangements.

Vanden Bos agrees that being a WA is no simple task: “I’ve learned how much time and collaborative effort goes into planning a single service, and how much of a blessing it is to have a team of people behind you.”

This year’s WA team is already growing close. Vanden Bos says, “We are like-minded in many respects — for instance, we have the tendency to break out into random song using six-part harmony — but our different personalities and church backgrounds allow us to explore ideas we would have never come up with on our own!”

“I am so easily amazed and delighted by the community and shared learning that takes place among students through the WA program,” says Ryan. “It’s magical.”