(Recently you received the February Christian School Teacher that referenced the opportunity that worship teams from CSI high schools had to attend the recent Calvin Institute of Worship Symposium. Thanks to Gale Tien, from our CSI office, who shares this report of the day’s activities.)
On January 23, 2009, I had the privilege to participate in the Calvin College Symposium on Worship. My role was to be an observer at the day-long gathering of nearly 25 Christian High School Worship/Chapel Committees. This group of nearly 150 students, teachers, and administrators from across North America, was brought together to discuss the role of worship in Christian high schools and to explore best practices in this area. It was inspiring to see more than one hundred high school students gathered to discuss and explore the role of worship in Christian high schools. It was a blessing to hear so many of these students express their love for Jesus and their desire for their classmates to come to love Jesus more dearly.
The day began in corporate worship with the larger group of symposium attendees. The Fine Arts Center on the Campus was nearly filled with people from around the globe. The multi-age, multi-denominational, multi-ethnic, multi-race, multi-worship style group and the worship that occurred set a beautiful tone for the remainder of the day. My prayer is that the high school students, some of whom were at times critical of their church worship experiences, gained a sense of how wonderful multi-generational worship can be. A consistent “thread” of their criticism related to worship with older people who don’t share the same taste in music or worship style. I pray that an added blessing for the high school students was the multi-cultural element of the opening worship.
(I feel I should add a bit of confession, lest it seem that the high school students were the only ones who learned and grew from the time of corporate worship. When the main speaker, Craig Barnes began talking, I noticed someone “talking” in a low voice in the row behind me. I began to feel my blood pressure rise as I anticipated having to deal with this distraction during Barnes’ comments. When I turned to give a disapproving “look” at the person who was talking, I realized it was an interpreter who was translating for a number of non-English speaking attendees. A wave of guilt caused me to sheepishly turn back around when I realized that what was taking place was a wonderful situation similar to what is described in Acts 2. I offered a “bullet prayer” asking God to forgive me for my myopia. I felt God’s forgiveness immediately and returned to experiencing a wonderful day.)
Following the corporate worship, the high school students, teachers, and administrators moved into a separate time to consider the role of worship in a Christian high school.
Ron Rienstra set an excellent context for the remainder of the day. He did a remarkable job of presenting substantive and theoretical ideas in a way that the group could digest and process these ideas. Ron provided so many wonderful ideas and thoughts. (I felt like I was being asked to “take a sip out of fire hydrant”.) I thought one of Ron’s greatest contributions to the day was the challenge to “find the fine line” between acknowledging the need for passion and emotion in worship, but not allowing worship to only be passion and emotion. I loved the quote that Ron referenced that “God does not always ‘move’ us . . . and all that ‘moves’ us is not always from God.” I also appreciated exploring the concept that worship includes three aspects; all of life, what happens on Sunday morning, and the intimate sense of God’s presence. I strongly agreed with his comment/quote about how people who report that Sunday worship is uninspiring often come to realize that the problem is not with their Sunday worship. Rather, there is no connection between their “Sunday worship” and their “all of life” worship. It was great to hear and see that the young people at my table understood and embraced Ron’s presentation on the Complexity of Worship.
Following Ron Rienstra’s presentation, Jack Postma and Sharon Veltema of Unity Christian High School in Hudsonville, Michigan, presented the role and implementation of chapel/worship at Unity Christian High School. Chapel/worship plays a large and frequent role at the school. Jack and Sharon described the history and progression of the plan, the philosophical foundation for worship at Unity, as well as practical advice for the other schools.
Following a “networking” lunch, which afforded attendees the opportunity to discuss and dialogue with other participants, the group moved into the afternoon session. The teachers and administrators gathered to discuss topics pertinent to high school leaders. The students participated in a rotation of three workshops. The topics were: Music and High School Worship, The Spoken Word (Prayers and Scripture Reading) and High School Worship, and The Visual Arts (Dance, Drama, and Use of Media) and High School Worship. The workshops were led by Calvin College students who are Worship Apprentices. Each sectional included a discussion of the philosophy and role of each area, as well as practical advice about implementing each of the areas. I was very impressed with the sincerity and maturity of the Calvin College Worship Apprentices.
Following this rotation of worships, the entire group; students, teachers, and administrators, gathered for a closing session, led by Bob Keeley. This closing session served the dual purpose of putting “closure” on some of the topics of the day but also allowed for some new thoughts and “next time” topics to be introduced. The most significant “next time” topic in my opinion (and a consensus expressed in the group discussion also) is to explore the role and interaction between the church and school regarding worship.
I left the symposium inspired and thankful. I was inspired to see the passion and fervor of the high school students and the adults that accompanied the students. It was so wonderful to see the students’ love for the Lord and desire to include expanded worship in their school. I was thankful for the work of John Witvliet, Bob Keeley, and the Worship Institute staff among others, who organized the gathering. I strongly commend the organizers of the day and would urge that there be a “next meeting”. I would suggest if at all possible it be a “cohort” type gathering and bring back as many of the young people who were at this first meeting to hear how the day impacted them and influenced worship at their school. Along with these returning students, new students should also be encouraged to join.