More than 1,500 people coming from a range of Christian denominations around North America and abroad will gather for a time of fellowship, worship, and learning at the Calvin Symposium on Worship 2020.
Set for Jan. 30-Feb. 1 on the campus of Calvin University, the symposium offers seminars, panel discussions, concerts, and presentations on various elements of worship and church life.
The overriding theme for this year’s symposium comes from 1 Peter, a letter written by the apostle Peter to give hope and encouragement to the early Christian church. All five of the main services are open to the public and will feature preaching and music inspired by 1 Peter.
In his letter, Peter offers comfort to people suffering “grief in all kinds of trials,” which have come, Peter writes,“so that the proven genuineness of your faith . . . may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Pet. 1:6-7).
Organizers chose 1 Peter because they believe that many churches and church members these days are facing hard challenges, in some ways just as Christians did in the first century, said Scott Hoezee, director of the Calvin Center for Excellence in Preaching, which is sponsoring the event along with the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.
“There is persecution, and [there are] political and social fissures and fractures of the wider society going through the church today,” said Hoezee.
“Peter was writing to a similarly beleaguered church and talking about how to live hopefully and faithfully during a tough time. . . . We want to address some of the concerns that are out there in the wider church.”
Topics of the services based on this text include “The Living Hope,” “Living as Holy,” “Living as Chosen People,” “Suffering for Living the Good,” and “Living under the God of All Grace.”
Meanwhile, in plenary presentations and seminars, the symposium will offer sessions on such subjects as “Loving Your Neighbor in and through Worship Practices,” “Gracious Bilingual Worship,” and “Reflections on Racial Conciliation and Ethnic Diversity in Christian Worship.”
The annual Calvin Symposium on Worship draws an eclectic group of pastors, worship leaders and planners, artists, musicians, scholars, students, and others who wouldn’t usually mix or mingle in other settings, said Hoezee. “People from lots of traditions and worship styles take part. There is a little something for everybody,” he said.
The goal of the symposium, he added, “is to enliven worship on a local level. We want to help make worship services more accessible. We want to inspire people and give them things they can bring back to their churches.”
Another aspect of the symposium will be to address what is called universal design, which has to do with designing worship services for all people, especially those with disabilities, dementia, and “issues related to mental loss,” said Hoezee.
Increasingly, given these challenges, he said, there is a need to find approaches that seek to express worship in nonverbal ways.
In addition, said Hoezee, “We will look at how to be multicultural in worship. How can we be intentional and reach out to the diverse range of people in our communities?”
Yet another element of the symposium will be to look at how to provide worship that is more than simply expressing praise and joy. It is also important to help churches form services that express emotions such as lament, sorrow, and doubt, said Hoezee.
“We want to make room in our worship services for people who come in with questions to be answered. We don’t want to say to people that they have to feel a certain way to be there,” said Hoezee.