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Inspire ‘Light’ Won’t Be So Light

July 14, 2021

Four speakers will be talking at Inspire “Light,” a free online conference to be held Aug. 3-6, but there will be nothing light about the things they plan to say or the topics they will address.

Defined by the Christian faith that has shaped them, the plenary speakers — Katie Roelofs, Rick Zomer, Reggie Smith, and Beth Fellinger — will bring with them deep convictions and beliefs to share at the various sessions.

“Inspire Light aims to whet your appetite for Inspire 2022 next year in Chicago,” said Kristen deRoo VanderBerg, director of communications and marketing for the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

“But that doesn’t mean this year’s event, and especially the speakers, won’t be bringing a broad range of challenging ideas and important pieces of information to those who sign up for Inspire ‘Light.’”

Each session will include worship, a plenary speaker, and the opportunity to network with others. “Expect special musical, spoken-word poetry, and guest performances in addition to thought-provoking messages and stimulating discussion,” said deRoo VanderBerg.

Inspire 2021 has been postponed till next year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Taking its place this summer, Inspire “Light” will run each day from noon to 1 p.m. (Eastern time).

Space is limited, so register now and indicate your interest for each session. Video recordings of each day’s session will also be posted for persons unable to attend.

“We certainly hope people consider attending Inspire 2022 next year,” said deRoo VanderBerg, noting that registration for the 2022 event will open in January. “But for this year, you can get a good sense of the type of interesting and compelling subjects Inspire speakers take on.”

Here is a look at the speakers for Inspire Light:

August 3 - Katie Ritsema Roelofs: “Tune Our Hearts to Sing Your Praise: Music as a Spiritual Discipline”

Roelofs, a commissioned pastor in the CRC and a worship catalyzer with the office of Worship Ministries, said, “My Inspire talk is going to focus specifically on congregational singing as a spiritual discipline.

“Congregational singing has captivated my interest from a very young age. I started accompanying other musicians in my home church while in elementary school, and by middle school/high school I was playing regularly and leading chapel services.”

Classically trained on the piano, Roelofs, who also serves as a minister of music and worship at Washington, D.C., CRC, said that something has always struck deep chords and resonated within her while playing music that moves people to lift their voices in singing to God.

“It is one thing to play by yourself and to hear the notes rise from the piano, and it’s an entirely different thing to play with the swell of voices joining in and lifting the music to new and glorious levels,” she said.

“The participation of voices — each adding a layer, a new tone, a sincere heart — makes music that nobody could ever make alone,” she added.

Roelofs said she is eager to speak at Inspire “Light” because churches are starting to open up after having been closed because of the pandemic.

 “Especially after a year and a half in which many church musicians recorded their playing in empty sanctuaries and voices sang alone on their couches or in their recliners at home, we need reminders of how congregational singing is a spiritual discipline that needs to be reintroduced and also reimagined,” she said.

Aug. 4 - Rick Zomer: “Empathetic Listening: Why Posture Matters When Engaging with Youth and Emerging Adults”

Zomer appreciates having grown up in a Christian Reformed church in southern Ontario. He said he loved the people and appreciated the worship services and learning the teachings of the church.

Looking back, however, he said he realizes there was not much intergenerational connection at the church.

There was little or no opportunity for youth participation, he said, and, as a result, he assumed that was how many churches were — that they had little room for young people.

But he discovered something different when he went to attend Calvin University.

“At Calvin, I met older people who took an interest in me. I could ask them questions, and they would pray for me,” said Zomer, executive director of ThereforeGo Ministries, an organization committed to connecting young people to the local church through summer mission opportunities and mentoring relationships.

“When I became a residence hall director, that gave me the opportunity to play a role in other people’s lives like those older people [at Calvin] played in mine,” he said.

Zomer spent 25 years in Christian higher education as an associate dean for residence life, a faculty member, and a director of enrollment initiatives. He has a bachelor's degree in economics from Calvin University, a master’s degree in higher education from Kent State University, and a doctorate in educational leadership from Western Michigan University.

Prior to his current position at ThereforeGo Ministries (formerly Youth Unlimited), he worked as director of next-generation engagement for the Reformed Church in America.

In his role at ThereforeGo, Zomer works in various ways to engage young people with the gospel — and to do so in ways that are authentic and that young people can appreciate.

“We are seeing a tremendous amount of young people leaving the church today,” he said. “We have to ask, ‘What are we in the church doing that they are responding to?’”

There are complex reasons for this exodus from the church, and Zomer plans to address some of those when he speaks at Inspire “Light.”

“We want to help churches build better intergenerational cultures,” he said. “Right now young people are hungry and looking for people to mentor them. We as adults need to put ourselves out there and connect with young people.”

Aug. 5 - Reggie Smith: “Diversity Changes Everything”

Reggie Smith, director of diversity for the CRCNA, recalls being a young man, sitting in Lawndale CRC, and looking around to see white and black people worshiping together.

Outside of church, he also saw the white CRC pastor and white members of his congregation helping to oversee basketball games for young people in the West Chicago neighborhood.

“In other settings I was used to seeing people stay on their own turf to avoid getting hurt,” said Smith. “But Lawndale crossed the boundaries. This was intriguing to me. Pastors at Lawndale accepted that our problems were their problems.”

At Inspire “Light,” Smith plans to talk about this ground-breaking kind of diversity and how important it is for people of all shades and backgrounds to come together and share the same humanity as well as the same faith.

“Jesus crossed boundaries and showed us that there is a new world of bigger horizons,” he said.

After attending university and working at Kirkland & Ellis law firm and at Spiegel Inc. in Chicago, Smith felt the Lord calling him into ministry, he said. He moved to Grand Rapids, Mich., to attend Calvin Theological Seminary and earn a master of divinity degree. He was ordained as a minister of the Word in the Christian Reformed Church in 1994.

“The CRCNA is going through important changes,” said Smith. “I see a number of ethnic leaders coming up. They are the growing edge of the church. Amazing things are happening in the denomination in terms of diversity, and I want to be part of that.”

Aug. 6 - Beth Fellinger: “The Ugly Couch Cafe Goes 3D”

Ministry has always been a part of her life, said Fellinger: “From a personal perspective I would say that missional living was modeled well in my family. My grandparents were involved in church leadership, and my parents and many of my family have been involved in church leadership or pastoral ministry.”

“By the age of 8,” she said, “I was sharing my faith with others, and as a teenager had already taken on leadership roles in the church I attended.”

Even while including painful moments, disappointments, and challenges as well as moments of celebration, she said, ministry remains rooted in her life.

“It is still the best thing to be part of,” said Fellinger, who serves with Resonate Global Mission as a regional mission leader for Eastern Canada. “I love opening doors for others to grow in their faith or even to explore faith for the first time. I believe the passion comes from the Holy Spirit's enabling — and that staying engaged with God and people” helps the passion grow.

At Inspire “Light,” Fellinger will share how over the past 10 years she and others “have been connecting with neighbors” and that now through the COVID-19 pandemic they “have become intentional about creating a missional space” in their homes and yards.

After planting Destination Church in St. Thomas, Ont., and serving as its pastor for several years, Fellinger and her husband have begun a church called the Ugly Couch Cafe at their home.

At Inspire Light, she will encourage people to imagine a seed — a small thought of the "what if" variety. As the seed takes root in your mind and heart, she said, such as opening a church that gathers around a picnic table in your backyard, you begin wondering what the harvest of that seed could look like.

“The latest place I am enjoying the passion of sharing God's story is with my neighbors,” she said.

Learn more and register for each Inspire “Light” session at