Photo: Calvin University
Photo by Calvin University

The 2020 edition of Calvin University’s award-winning January Series features New York Times best-selling authors, Billboard-topping musicians, and a 41-year veteran of the White House press corps.

Started in 1987, the January Series is an annual, award-winning, 15-day lecture series that aims to cultivate deep thought and conversations about important issues of the day in order to inspire cultural renewal and better equip global citizens in God’s world.

In 2020 this free, lunchtime series will run from Wed., Jan. 8, through Tues., Jan. 28. Attendees will learn from a wide range of experts leading some of the nation’s and the world’s most pivotal and timely conversations. 

The 15 speakers will provide insight on such issues as poverty and hunger, the global water crisis, immigration, mass incarceration, religious freedom, and big data’s inequality and threat to democracy.

A few of the notable names in the 2020 lineup include Ann Compton, a White House correspondent who covered seven U.S. presidents; Mitch Albom, an author, columnist, radio host, and philanthropist whose books have sold over 39 million copies and been translated into more than 45 languages; and Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at New York University whose last two books were New York Times best-sellers.

“Gaining knowledge is the first step to making a difference” in God’s world, said Kristi Potter, director of the January Series. “If we don’t know about these topics, then we don’t know how we can actually make a difference.”

Potter says this work starts with listening, even to people with whom we may disagree. On day two of the January Series, for example, attendees will have a great opportunity to see what this looks like:

“We will hear from two respected scientists who hold opposing viewpoints on the topic of origins. One is a six-day creationist, the other is a theistic evolutionist, and both feel strongly about their views. Both actually feel the other person’s view is harming the church,” said Potter.

“And yet, the two have learned to talk to rather than past one another, using respectful dialogue with the understanding that they are both Christians. This moderated conversation will serve as a model for us to engage in difficult conversations — something we aspire to foster through this series and in all of our work at Calvin University.”

While Potter says the series will dig deep into some of the complex issues facing the world today, it will also highlight the great progress being made in some of these areas. She expects it will inspire hope.

“It’s not all doom and gloom; positive things are happening. I hope those who attend or tune in to the series this coming year will leave hopeful for the future and understand how they can take steps to make a difference. And maybe that step is just being more willing to listen to one another and acknowledging one another for who they are.”

The January Series will run Jan. 8-28 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. (EST) Monday through Friday in the Covenant Fine Arts Center on Calvin’s campus. The series is also available at remote sites  in more than 50 cities throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. This includes the Burlington, Ont. offices of the Christian Reformed Church in North America.

In Jan. 2019 nearly 80,000 people enjoyed the series live by attending on campus, at remote sites, or via audio livestream.