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January Series, Worship Symposium Launch Online

January 6, 2021

Beginning today, Calvin University’s award-winning January Series will for the first time in its 34-year history be a completely virtual experience and available to the general public for viewing from personal devices.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, there will be no presentations at the Calvin University Fine Arts Center. Nor will there be livestream presentations at remote sites around North America and beyond.

Instead, those who normally gather at the Covenant Fine Arts Center on the Calvin campus or at remote sites are encouraged to tune in on their own.

“Everything has gone virtual,” said Kristi Potter, director of the January Series. “I’m a little nervous about all of the logistics, but I’m confident that our Information Technology department will make all of this work.”

The January Series runs every weekday from 12:30-1:30 p.m. through Tuesday, Jan. 26.

Meanwhile, also starting today, the annual Calvin Symposium on Worship, which normally runs at the end of January following the January Series, will begin with online presentations.

Running weekdays through Jan. 26, the Symposium on Worship will offer 20 livestream worship services and 20 webinar sessions as well as on-demand content that allows viewers to access material at their own pace and time.

“We look forward to three weeks of learning — all free of charge — designed not just for pastors, worship leaders, church musicians, and artists, but for all worshipers, including students in high school, colleges and universities, seminaries and divinity schools,” said Kristen Verhulst, assistant director and program manager of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

“Since the conference explores a sampling of ‘the connections between public worship practices and faithful Christian witness in every sphere of life and culture,’ there are topics that connect with a wide range of subjects,” said Verhulst.

With the January Series, the general public can watch each presentation from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. EST from wherever they are across the continent and the world. And if you can't join live, the presentation will be available until midnight on the day of the presentation.

The roster for the series features multiple New York Times best-selling authors, two of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential Leaders, and the 2020 winner of the Kluge Humanities Prize—considered the equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize for the humanities.

A few of the world-renowned speakers on the 2021 docket include Tara Westover, author of Educated, a book featured on the New York Times best-seller list for a couple of years;  Bruce Feiler, author of six consecutive New York Times bestsellers, the presenter of two primetime series on PBS, and the inspiration for the drama series Council of Dads on NBC; and Jemar Tisby, author of The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church's Complicity in Racism, which received the 2019 honors for Book of the Year from the Englewood Review of Books. Here is the complete lineup of speakers.

Stob Lecture

In addition to speaking at 12:30 p.m. at the January Series on Monday, Jan. 18, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Tisby will be on hand later that afternoon for the 2021 Stob Lecture Colloquium at Calvin Theological Seminary.

Starting at 4 p.m. and available via livestream, the colloquium will feature a conversation between Tisby and Calvin Seminary’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Discipleship Coaches, Denise Posie and David Beelen.

The topic of this conversation will be “What is the color of compromise?” based on Tisby’s book.

The Stob Lecture and Colloquium are sponsored annually by Calvin University and Calvin Theological Seminary in honor of Dr. Henry J. Stob. Visit for more information.

January Series Opens

Opening the January Series today is Calvin University philosophy professor Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung. She will speak about Glittering Vices, drawing from her acclaimed book on the topic, which explores why people are captivated by glittery but false substitutes for true human goodness and happiness.

Anyone from around the world can watch or listen to the series free on their devices by registering here. Registration information is also available at

While each day’s lecture can be viewed until midnight EST of the day it was presented live, some of this year’s presentations will also be permanently archived and available for later viewing.

Worship Symposium

All who are interested in participating in the Worship Symposium, which will welcome more than 90 contributors, are invited to register now. Follow #wsymp21 on Twitter. The livestream worship services take people around the globe to a variety of worshiping communities. Six of these services feature texts from Romans 8 on "The Renewed Life of God."
John Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, posted a Facebook message talking about the change of the symposium to a completely online format.

Although they had to pivot because of the pandemic, Witvliet said the experience reflects much continuity with past conferences even in the new format:

  • focus on times of worship and learning
  • multiplicity of voices (roles, traditions, locations, experiences)
  • connecting practices with theology
  • incremental, steady learning over time
  • history remains important to today's worship practices
  • the Psalms, reading of Scripture, and public prayer practices are essential
  • online with livestream options and on-demand content
  • participants add their wisdom through chats on YouTube and Zoom, and via comments on webpages
  • Global Psalm Gallery (crowdsourced) with over 40 entries

The Worship Symposium will include 40 livestream sessions and more than 40 on-demand sessions, plus a gallery of Psalm-based music and art.

“One of the best ways to participate is with a friend, neighbor, religious seeker, staff colleague, class, or book group,” said VerHulst.

For example, this Thursday, Jan. 7, at 3 p.m. EST, participants can tune in to a livestream session with Catherine Gunsalus González, Justo L. González, and María Cornou — a noon lunch break for anyone on the west coast of North America, and a session that colleagues in Accra, Dublin, and London can listen to in the evening. (Other sessions will be timed more conveniently for colleagues in Asia).

“We will provide access to livestream sessions after the event. But it's ideal to join in real time whenever possible to participate in the chat conversations,” said Verhulst.

Meanwhile, the conference website will feature asynchronous — meaning you can watch at your own pace — conversations related to every conference session. This format will offer a way to learn from insights from all over the world.