Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

The Calvin 50: A fundamental part of chapel worship services

Nolan Cowan
Having a set list of songs helps the team coordinate services and gives students a sense of continuity across years.

While many students may notice the same songs popping up in chapel services each week, they might not know why this is the case. The answer is that the songs all belong to the Calvin 50, a list of 50 worship songs that the worship team uses to build worship services in the chapel.

Originally formed to support Barnabas teams in picking songs for weekly dorm worship, the Calvin 50 began to be implemented in chapel services in 2017 in order to connect chapel worship with worship in the dorms, according to Worship Pastor Paul Ryan in a 2018 Q&A with the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

Curated with the help of the worship apprentices, campus worship associate and gospel choir Director Nathaniel Glasper, and Ryan, the Calvin 50 makes up 50% of the songs chosen for Thursday chapel, Friday chapel and LOFT. The list serves to foster diversity and community and support worship in the various services the Worship Team leads on campus, according to Ryan.

One of the main goals of the Calvin 50 is to provide diversity in our chapel worship, according to Ryan. Grace Guillory –– a senior studying speech and audio pathology and a worship apprentice for the 2023-24 school year –– finds that in many ways, the Calvin 50 provides more cultural diversity in the song selection than she found in her fellowship at home in Saudi Arabia. Guillory said that despite the international nature of her community, they “don’t sing a lot of songs from different cultures. It’s just Western songs, which is kind of sad, honestly.”

The list not only focuses on cultural diversity, it also represents diversity in genre and theme. Without a song list, it can be hard for worship teams to make sure that their songs are appropriate for the kind of service they’re planning — and that they properly encompass the diverse themes of a Christian life, like confession, dedication, justice and redemption, according to Ryan “Keeping track of what we sing helps us plan worship that represents different moments and seasons of the Christian year and the fullness of the liturgy…It helps us measure whether we’re singing enough gospel or liturgical folk songs or songs in Spanish and so on,” said Ryan in the 2018 Q&A. 

While the Calvin 50 strives to represent the university’s culturally diverse student body, it also provides a common language for that student body to support Christian community. Ryan told Chimes that he works with his team to make sure to include songs that have been favorites of the Calvin community over the last four or more years. They do make some changes to the list every year, but “a main core of 75 to 80 percent of songs… continue from year to year,” said Ryan in the 2018 Q&A. This repetition helps keep the musical language Calvin students are using to worship together consistent throughout students’ college experience, and it works to  foster formation in community with one another, according to Ryan. Guillory finds that singing familiar songs from week to week helps her in her worship experience. Rather than worrying about what songs the Worship Apprentice team needs to lead that day, or what the lyrics to a certain song are, the Calvin 50 allows worship during chapel services to be about making sure “everyone is singing and feels comfortable and is able to focus on God…not forming their mouths to make the words on the screen,” said Guillory.

Ryan also finds that familiar song choices help students, faculty and visitors alike worship more fully. “Songs sung three or four times become formative, so we need to pay attention to how what we sing in worship is forming our faith and life,” said Ryan in the 2018 Q&A. “The more we repeat songs, the more likely they are to work their way into our hearts and minds and shape our faith,” he told Chimes.

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