LOFT kicks off the year

Campus Ministries kicked off this fall’s LOFT ministry last Sunday with a focus on the opening passages of the Gospel of John. The service was held on September 9 and featured student-led worship as well as a sermon from College Chaplain Rev. Mary Hulst.

LOFT, which stands for Living Our Faith Together, was started in 1997 by two Calvin seminary students seeking to create a contemporary worship service for college students in the Grand Rapids area.

Pastor Paul Ryan, Associate Chaplain for Worship, began working at Calvin only a few years later. He explained that at the time, many churches in Grand Rapids were going through what is sometimes referred to as the “Worship Wars,” when many churches were debating the merits of traditional worship versus “contemporary” worship, particularly within the Reformed tradition.

LOFT was seen as an opportunity to engage in contemporary worship at a time when few places were fully embracing it.

Within a year, the services were moved to Calvin, which was seeking an on-campus worship opportunity on Sundays for students. Soon, aspects of the Reformed liturgy, such as confession, which are now common in LOFT services, were added. LOFT has since become a staple of spiritual formation at Calvin and a key aspect of Campus Ministries’ work.

Pastor Mary believes LOFT is unique because it is “a service by and for Calvin students. The prayers, songs and sermon are all chosen to relate to where students are and how they can be encouraged in faith. We pray about the things happening on campus and in the countries represented by students.”

Indeed, Campus Ministries considers representing Calvin’s diversity a high priority for LOFT services. LOFT services often feature singing in different languages, and Sunday night was no exception, as the service concluded with a Chinese benediction song.

Each semester, LOFT focuses on a particular book of Scripture or overriding theme. Last semester focused on relationships and saw Pastor Mary and other guest speakers tackle difficult but relevant issues concerning the church and Calvin students at large, such as marriage, family and sexuality.

This fall will focus on the Gospel of John.

The decision to focus on this gospel this fall came from many places, noted Pastor Mary: “First, we were due for a New Testament book, as we have an every/other year cycle of New and Old Testament. Second, we hadn’t done a gospel in a while. Third, John lines up well with “The Jesus Questions” Bible study which we are all doing together.”

Pastor Paul added that students expressed interest in having a campus-wide Bible study that supplemented LOFT rather than feeling like a reiteration of what was already said in the service.

LOFT is often intertwined with the other parts of Campus Ministries, not only through campus-wide Bible studies, but also often tying in with Monday chapel services where students are encouraged to “Believe” with a short sermon from a guest pastor from a local church or a Calvin staff member. This integration is part of how LOFT works to build a consistent community of faith at Calvin.

Pastor Mary noted that while worshiping at a local church on Sunday mornings is encouraged because it deepens one’s understanding of the Christian community at large, “We also know that for some students, LOFT will be their primary worshipping community for a season, and it’s good to provide an on-campus service for students who can’t get off-campus, or for whom the available on-campus churches may not meet at an ideal time.”   

And while LOFT is certainly geared toward students and building that community with Calvin, everyone is welcome, no matter where they may find themselves in their faith walk. Pastor Mary noted, “The sermons are prepared for students—some who know scripture really well and some who don’t, some who are confident in what they believe and some who aren’t. We try to make the service a space where every student can encounter Jesus.”