Gleanings from the Calvin Symposium on Worship

Volume 13, No. 1 (January 2018)

The annual Calvin Symposium on Worship, sponsored by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, is held at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at the end of January every year. It is always a rich time of worship, instruction (in plenary sessions and dozens of special-interest workshops), inspiration and networking.

This year was no exception. Here are some miscellaneous thoughts and ideas I am taking with me as I return home from Grand Rapids.

  1. Make more use of “Faith Stories” (testimonies) in our worship services. This could include someone sharing about why a favorite song or hymn is meaningful to that person, followed by the congregation singing it.
  2. Consider including “Work Stories” also: “vocational testimonies” about how God motivates and uses them in their workday jobs.
  3. Make video recordings of some of our elderly faith heroes talking about their long walks with the Lord (before it’s too late!).
  4. Make a video recording to share with the congregation of some of the prayer groups that meet regularly at the church and elsewhere.
  5. Use the Psalms more in corporate worship (sung, read, prayed); spread an entire Psalm throughout the service.
  6. Find more creative ways for the Scripture to be presented in worship. (There are many resources available to help.)
  7. Fit a “worship teaching moment” into the service often, explaining the WHY of our worship, not just the what and how.
  8. Label, identify or explain the functions that different elements of the service play in the whole fabric of the service.
  9. Work in times of silence occasionally.
  10. Consider displaying seasonal art by the children in the sanctuary.
  11. Find more ways to use and engage children and youth in the worship service.
  12. Cultivate and communicate a sense of awe at the privilege hearing God speak to us through His Word, and of praying and singing to the Lord of the universe.
  13. NEVER pray, read Scripture, lead the Lord’s Supper, or do any other part of the service perfunctorily! Do it like it means something!!
  14. Don’t repeat instructions or titles that are already given on the screen or in the bulletin; rather make verbal transitions in a tone that communicates the emotional impact of what the people are being called to do.
  15. Make clear that in worship we are joining in with the always continuing activity of heaven, as well as entering into a historical continuum that connects us with the church of the past and the future, as well the church worldwide of the present.
  16. Remind the congregation of their exalted status as a Royal Priesthood! (1 Peter 2:9)
  17. “Every true Christian prayer is the bearer and agent of history, it brings the end of the world closer….When the Church gathers for prayer, the Church is the instrument of God’s purpose for the world.” (Jean-Jacques von Allmen, quoted by Ron Rienstra)
  18. “Is there enough Jesus in your service?” (Ron Rienstra)
  19. “[By] its worship the Church becomes itself, becomes conscious of itself, and confesses itself as a distinct entity.” (von Allmen) The true nature of the Church does not come from its structure or its catechesis, but from its worship. The Church is not an institution or an organism, it is a liturgical assembly. The Church is most clearly self-identified as the Church when it is gathered for worship. (Ron Rienstra, drawing on the writings of von Allmen)
  20. All renewals of Israel and of the Church, in the Bible and in church history, have involved a renewal/reformation of its worship. (Ron Rienstra, drawing on the writings of von Allmen)

Video and audio recordings of many of the sessions will be available in a few weeks at







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