Last week PJ and I went up to Grand Rapids to participate in the Worship Grants Colloquium as part of our 2011 grant project “Anamnesis.” Every church that is participating in the Calvin grants program is required to attend this yearly event with the project director and another member of the grant team (Pj is heading up our Scripture Reading team) We spent two days learning about how to implement the grant program in our local church setting, hearing victories and struggles from last years grant recipients and sharing at meals and events with those full of expectation for next year. It is an incredibly full couple of days packed with worship, sharing, learning, and catching up with old friends.
One of the great parts of these events is catching up with projects you’ve been keeping tabs on. We got to participate in two worship grants from last year. It was great to spent some time with Matt Stevens who has been working on a worship grant at Vintage21 church just down the street from us. I hung out with Matt in March teaching his worship leaders about the story of the Passover/Lord’s Supper as part of a program learning about liturgy and elements in worship.
Isaac Wardell was also there sharing about the work of his grant at Trinity Presbyterian in Charlottesville, Va. Isaac, in partnership with BiFrost Arts hosted a fantastic worship/arts conference in St. Louis. I participated on a panel at the conference.
A significant part of the grant colloquium are times of learning. One session that particularly struck me was the time we spent looking at the Nairobi Statement on Worship and Culture. John Witvliet, the Director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship walked us through this. Here is a brief statement from him on the significance of this document (PDF).
The document is helpful because it calls each of us to give attention to each of these four dimensions of the gospel. To those of us who have pursued cultural relevance with just about all our attention and energy, it calls us to dwell with the transcultural dimensions of the faith and determine which part of our culture we should resist. To those of us inclined to make universal pronouncements, the documents calls us to see the contextual nature of our own formulations and to learn from formulations from other cultural contexts that may challenge, complement, or enrich our understanding. To those of us with few if any contacts with people unlike ourselves, it invites us to the risky and rewarding prospects of forming cross-cultural friendships. The document challenges every leader, every congregation, and every denomination to not only develop their area of strength, but also their area of weakness.
And last, but certainly not least! is the time spent together in service – rich in music, word, liturgy, dance, color, sound, and any other element that is appropriate to list here. Since the worship grants program attracts churches from almost every church tradition and background it is an eclectic group to say the least. Highlights this year included hearing Pj read a poem from George Herbert in one service and getting to hear my composition “Come, Holy Ghost” in another service. What a treat!! I always leave incredibly thankful for the wisdom, discernment and hospitality of the CICW in navigating us through this time.
Blessed is the Church that gets to learn and worship with the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.