Calvin symposium diversifies worship

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The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW) and the Center for Excellence in Preaching hosted the annual Symposium on Worship from Jan. 30 to Feb. 1.

In recent years, the Symposium on Worship has had an increased focus on multicultural worship. “From the very beginning, multicultural worship, global worship has been a very important theme,” said Kristen Verhulst, associate director and program manager at the CICW. “I think it’s just become more rich every single year, and that’s partly because Calvin’s own student body has become increasingly more diverse.” This year, many of the worship services held at the conference were in more than one language, and several of the presentations were as well. 

One such presentation was given in Spanish by author and speaker Leopoldo Sanchez. Writer of “Sculptor Spirit: Models of Sanctification from Spirit Christology,” Sanchez is a Lutheran theologian working out of Concordia University in St. Louis, MO. A first generation immigrant born in Chile and raised in Panama, Sanchez hopes his unique perspective can inspire others. “Through the Calvin Institute for Christian Worship, I have been able to enter into this ecumenical family of the broader church, thinking and reflecting on worship,” Sanchez said. “My strength is to bring my own immigrant, global south experience and reflection, as well as my Lutheran theology to the mix. So for me it has been a pleasure to be a part of a community where I can learn from other Christians and at the same time contribute.”  

The Symposium on Worship began in 1988, the same year in which the January Series debuted. The conference originated in the music department and has expanded in the many years since. Always held on campus, the main goal of the conference is to expand and develop the ways in which attendees worship. By connecting acts of worship to daily life through art, presentation, music and workshops, attendees learn about the meaning of worship and how to get the most out of it.

The conference was originally intended to include speakers and attendees from Christian churches of all types, something which continues on today. This year’s 100-plus speakers included pastors and leaders from Presbyterian, Lutheran, Baptist and Catholic denominations, as well as one Greek Orthodox priest. 

Like Sanchez, Verhulst and the conference directors hope that symposium attendees can leave the week of worship and learning feeling refreshed and empowered. “It’s not about saying we have all the answers and this conference is going to solve every problem,” Verhulst said. Instead, she urges those attending to “Come together and let’s ask questions together, and listen to one another, to the different presenters but also to each other.”