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An Awkward Marriage? Music and Language in Worship

A week-long seminar led by Jeremy Begbie.


Monday, August 15 - Friday, August 19, 2022


Calvin University
3201 Burton St SE
Grand Rapids, Michigan

(All applications are now closed)

It is said that “Where words fail, music speaks.” How true is this? In worship, most of us know that music can do things that words cannot do – otherwise, we would never bother singing songs and hymns. But does this mean that music has theological power of its own? And is there not a danger that this will usurp the centrality of the Word (something many fear)?

This week-long seminar, directed by Jeremy Begbie, will examine the vital relation between music and language as they interact in worship. The particular powers of each medium will be explored, along with some of the classic ways of understanding of the relation between them. A broad variety of combinations of music and words will be examined, spanning a wide range of musical styles. A theological account of the music-word relation will be offered, against the background of a rich, trinitarian vision of worship. Song- and hymn-writers should find the course especially relevant, but all who are responsible for worship can benefit from examining one of the most crucial issues facing the Church today: how can we do justice to the primacy of the Word in worship while also honoring the immense powers of a non-verbal medium such as music?

We look forward to gathering a diverse group of theologians, pastors, and ministry leaders to reflect on this question in an intimate, discussion-based format. Our week together will consist of morning devotionals, plenary lectures, small group discussions, and evening activities, with generous time reserved each afternoon for rest and reflection. The seminar begins at 8:30 a.m. on Monday, August 15, and concludes at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, August 19.

This seminar will be offered at no cost to those participants who are selected. Space is limited. All meals and lodging will be provided throughout the week. Participants are responsible for the cost of travel to and from the seminar.

Application Information

Applications for this seminar were due on February 17, 2022. As of this date, the application process for this summer seminar has been closed.

Participants will be selected by March 13, 2022 and will receive copies of the texts we will study.