January 24–26, 2019 • Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA


Each day of the conference opens and concludes with a worship service.


Choose one morning seminar or one day-long retreat. Lunch is included and will be provided in a location near the retreat or morning seminar.


R1: New Song. A Skillful Song. 
Tony Alonso, Emily R. Brink, Greg Scheer (moderator), and Liz Vice
Those of us who feel Psalm 33’s call to write new songs must remember that the psalm also tells us to play skillfully. In this seminar we will focus on the skills of songwriting for congregations, digging into what it means to balance inspiration and perspiration. Join these singer-songwriters as they speak about their approaches to creating new texts, new tunes, and the combining of texts and tunes. The afternoon will be spent discussing participants’ song submissions. Attendees of all levels and musical styles will benefit from this seminar.

R2: While We Are Waiting, Yielded and Still
Dale Cooper

This retreat will be limited to 15 people who will spend time together in a home setting, also enjoying fellowship over the noon meal. In this day of quiet together, we will ponder afresh “how deep the Father’s love for us;” enjoy “sweet communion” with Jesus; and pledge anew, God’s Spirit helping us, “with one holy passion,” to return our Lover’s love.


S1: The Bible in Worship: Deep Engagement with Scripture in a Culture of Low Biblical Literacy
Kevin Adams, Gary Burge, Constance Cherry, Meg Jenista Kuykendall, and Noel Snyder (moderator)

Almost every church affirms engagement with Scripture as a vital—even central—element of their worship services. Yet preachers and worship leaders are increasingly aware of the need for “remedial” work to be done for worshipers to engage well with Scripture. In a post-Christendom context, no assumptions can be made about basic biblical knowledge and understanding. This seminar will explore strategies for engaging Scripture in worship in a culture marked by low biblical literacy. Our panelists will address questions such as:

Is there in fact a biblical literacy deficit among contemporary North American worshipers, and if so, is this unique to our time? What have you observed and experienced? What are some of the major barriers to engaging Scripture well in worship? What are some strategies and practices that might promote deeper engagement with and understanding of Scripture in worship? What is the relationship between discipleship, Scriptural understanding, and corporate worship? What models set the stage for healthy engagement of Scripture in worship?

Come explore this crucial topic with other pastors, worship leaders, scholars, and church leaders. We promise not to turn this into a Bible trivia contest—but we do hope you learn something!

S2: La Intima Relación entre el culto a Dios y la Etica Social
Mariano Ávila
Los profetas Isaías, Amós, y Malaquías (entre otros) mostraron la íntima relación entre el amor a Dios y el amor al prójimo. Denunciaron la manera en que sus contemporáneos separaban el culto a Dios de su conducta cotidiana hacia sus semejantes. “¿Cómo podemos decir que amamos a Dios, a quien no vemos, si no amamos a nuestro prójimo, a quien sí vemos?” Estas lecciones siguen estando vigentes hoy día para nosotros. En español.

S3: Loving our Muslim Neighbors
John Azumah, Lisa Hoogeboom, Shannon Jammal-Hollemans, Matthew Kaemingk, Roberta King, Eric Sarwar, Cory Willson (moderator)
Practicing love is more demanding that citing Scriptures that speak about love. Nowhere does this seem more pressing for Christians in North America than when it comes to loving Muslims. Muslims are no longer only those we in North America hear about from overseas missionaries on furlough. We meet them as neighbors, co-workers, fellow citizens, and family members. In many places, churches are struggling to address the needs of discipling Christians who can demonstrate love toward Muslims in their life. What are effective ways to build positive and trusting relationships with Muslims? What type of hospitality and friendship is meaningful for Muslims? What types of formation do Christians need to be engaged in to effectively address the questions, fears, and prejudices that inhibit our acts of love towards Muslims? 

S4: Worship and Christian Community Development
David M. Bailey (moderator), Mark Charles, Angie Hong, Jack Kooreman, Robert Chao Romero, and Sandra Van Opstal
More and more congregations are embracing God’s call to seek the renewal and long-term health of their neighborhoods through commitments to sustainable holistic ministries not just for those near them, but with them. How does this vision shape those congregations’ public worship services? What difference does this make for preaching, public prayer, music, the arts, and celebrations of baptism and the Lord’s Supper? How do worship and community development work together—synergistically—as congregations seek to live out the call of the gospel of Jesus Christ?

S5: Multilingual Singing for English-Speaking Congregations
Robert Batastini, Kai Ton Chau, María Eugenia Cornou (moderator)
, Jaewoo Kim, Ron Rienstra, Rebecca Snippe (moderator), and Marcell Steuernagel
One of the greatest gifts we have is the ability to worship our Lord together as the body of Christ. But with the global church at our doorstep, many worship planners and leaders in English-speaking congregations face questions of how to embrace a global liturgy. How can we sing songs from the global church well, especially when we don’t know the language or the correct rhythms? How do we find resources for leading worship that is both local and global? This seminar will include worship leaders, choir directors, and resource publishers from a variety of worshiping communities, denominations, and cultural backgrounds addressing the different ways global singing is done in their communities, why their communities sing in multiple languages, and practical tips for gradually introducing the songs of the global church into worshiping communities.

S6: Trinitarian Sacramental Theology
Kimberley Belcher, J. Todd Billings, Glenn Packiam, M. Sydney Park, Laura Smit, and John D. Witvliet (moderator)
It is a remarkable Christian claim that God is active not only in receiving our worship, but also in inspiring, prompting, and perfecting it—drawing us into communion with God and each other. It is also remarkable that God would do this through embodied, material human actions of washing, eating, and drinking. Yet often this central Christian vision is forgotten, ignored, or distorted, and all sorts of believers are never given the opportunity to taste and see God’s beauty in this vivid and nourishing way. This session will be a doxological session, full of praise to God for this gift. It will also be instructive, pointing to key resources in the Christian tradition for further exploring this vision. And it will be practical, suggesting ideas for teaching, preaching, and public worship that live into this rich vision.

S7: Hidden Prophets of the Bible: Finding the Gospel in Hosea through Malachi
Amanda Benckhuysen, Scott Hoezee (moderator), and Michael Williams
Who are the minor prophets? What do they have to say? Why should any of us care? This delegation of twelve strange men has arrived at our church from their obscure biblical backwaters. Should we let them in? This seminar will explore the contours of these biblical books with an eye toward teaching and preaching them vibrantly.

S8: Worship in Christian Educational Institutions
Susan Burner, Bo H. Lim, Emmett G. Price III, Rod Reed, Anthony Ruff, and Joanna Wigboldy (moderator)
Many Christian educational institutions aim to provide an integrated educational experience in which students grow spiritually. In an institution that exists primarily to educate, what is the role of public worship in the formation of students? Rod Reed will explore five questions that identify and address the unique challenges and goals of public worship on the Christian campus. Panelists from a variety of higher education contexts will then share the ways in which Reed’s questions speak to the way they approach worship on their own campuses. These questions are sure to prompt deep discussion around your institution’s worship. Come with your team!  

S9: Worship 101: Skills & Drills for the Emerging Worship Leader
Calvin College Worship Apprentices and Paul Ryan
What skills are needed for faithful worship leadership? How does an aspiring worship leader develop these skills? In this seminar we will introduce two essential practices: leading in prayer and leading in song. For each practice, we will explore multiple drills that emerging worship leaders can repeat in order to grow in confidence and ability. This seminar is designed especially for emerging worship leaders and those who mentor them. 

S10: Godspeed: Holy Pacing for Faithful Ministry
Julie Canlis

How can we be faithful disciples of Jesus in a frantically busy world? What can we learn about the pace of faithful ministry? Come explore the compelling world of rural Scotland and what it taught a family engaged in contemporary parish ministry. Learn from one of the key collaborators in a 35-minute documentary, Godspeed, and begin to discern God’s calling on the pacing of your own life. Together we will engage in conversations about holy pacing for faithful ministry in your own communities. This is also offered in the afternoon.

S11: Worship and Faith Formation through the Life Cycle
Lynn Barger Elliot, Laura Fanucci, Syd Hielema, Barbara J. Newman, Kathy Smith (moderator)
How do children worship best? How can worship help young people through the teen and young adult years? What practices of worship resonate most with adults and elderly people? And how can we include people of all abilities in worship? This seminar will look at the human life cycle and the developmental stages that all people grow through in their faith formation, and we’ll consider what this means for how people of all ages and abilities can participate fully in worship.

S12: Leading Congregational Song from the Organ Bench
John Ferguson
John Ferguson will explore concepts from registrations to basic improvisational techniques to help organists nurture congregational song during worship and encourage singing with greater understanding and spirit. Organists interested in being coached during the seminar are encouraged to prepare a hymn from Lift Up Your Hearts, including an introduction, as if it were for a worship service.

S13: Hands on Clay: Create, Reflect, Celebrate
Anna Greidanus
Join an invitation to engage human hands and the material of the earth as a means of expressing beyond words. This seminar in clay will emphasize the gifts of human imagination, the responsive nature of clay as material, and gestures of the hand. Exploring clay as vehicle and metaphor in contemplative expression, material-based exercises encourage ideas for artistic engagement in worship. Explore intersections of creativity, reflection, and celebration with no previous studio art experience required. Artists in any medium also welcome. Limited to 12. This is also offered in the afternoon.

S14: Visual Liturgy: Illuminating Worship Spaces with Technology
Stephen Proctor
The advent of modern technology has opened a world of possibilities for creative worship. But many church leaders and artists are struggling with how to tastefully and artfully implement production without Sunday morning turning into a “show.” There is a tension to be explored here. In this seminar, we will talk about how to curate sacred spaces that illuminate rather than entertain. More specifically, we will look at examples of how visual media and technology can be used to care for our liturgical spaces.

S15: Engaging Contemporary Prophetic Art: Posters for Hope, Peace, and Social Justice
John August Swanson
Throughout church history, art has not only expressed Christian prayer but also embodied prophetic response to injustice. This artistic vision is beautifully expressed in the work of John August Swanson. For the last five years Swanson has been working out this vision in his posters on Peace and Social Justice. He writes:

These posters are the re-imagining of artwork from different periods in my life to bring forth ideas of hope, dialogs between people, and possibilities for change. With these posters, I return to my very early beginnings, when I took Sr. Corita Kent’s evening class at Immaculate Heart College in 1967–68.

Corita had been asked to create an environment of social justice for the 1968 World Council of Churches in Uppsala, Sweden. She asked her class to “get working” on large cardboard kiosks. The class responded with a great amount of excitement and work. We carved many alphabet sets from rubber erasers and used these alphabets to stamp out, and paint messages for justice, civil rights, hunger, poverty, and peace. The large kiosks were used in the walkways around the Council meeting areas at the University of Uppsala.

I have continued to use these alphabets, as well as the skills that I learned from the class and Sister Corita’s own work.

My posters connect with Dag Hammarskjöld’s statement:

Working at the edge of the development of human society is to work on the brink of the unknown. Much of what is done will one day prove to have been of little avail. That is no excuse for the failure to act in the ultimate result of the creative evolution in which it is our privilege to cooperate.

We may not see the results of our work, but at least we try.

Come and learn from Swanson and view more than 40 of his posters on Peace and Social Justice. This seminar is held at the Catholic Information Center in downtown Grand Rapids. Transportation from Calvin College is provided. You will eat lunch there.

Choose one afternoon seminar:


S16: Framing Worship for Missional Engagement
Kevin Adams (moderator), Stephen De Wit, Angie Hong, and Glenn Packiam
How is worship both historic and hospitable? How can timeless worship practices be winsome and missional, captivating the hearts and minds of both veteran believers and spiritual novices? The panel will describe the contours of leading worship and share best practices for worship within the tension of local contextualization and timeless catholicity.

S17: Faith, Work, and Worship: The Strategic and Overlooked Role of Local Congregations
Katherine Leary Alsdorf, Laura Fanucci, Matthew Kaemingk, and Cory Willson (moderator)
Resources and initiatives to help Christians connect their faith with their work continue to proliferate in North America. However, what is often lacking in these discussions is a focus on local congregations and their role in engaging in this vital aspect of discipleship. This involves making connections between Sunday worship and weekday life in the world much more vivid through adapting worship practices, providing resources for daily devotional life, and challenging the frameworks for connecting worship and life that currently exist in our ministries. These connections mean quite different things for people in different stages of life and in different cultural and geographic contexts. How can we strengthen the connections between liturgy and faith and faith and work for young professionals, the unemployed, homemakers, and those approaching retirement? What intentional changes do churches need to make to form disciples equipped to pursue their daily work in light of their faith?

S18: Worship and Culture
John Azumah, Monique Ingalls, Terry LeBlanc, Robert Chao Romero, Leopoldo A. Sánchez, and John D. Witvliet (moderator)
All pastoral leaders, including worship leaders, are called to make decisions with discernment about culture. We are called to “not conform to this world” (Rom. 12) and yet to “be all things to all people” for the sake of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:22). At its best, Christian worship is richly contextual. It is also countercultural. To make discerned choices about how worship relates to culture, we need the wisdom of believers from many different cultural contexts to teach and guide us, to keep us from rejecting what should not be rejected and embracing what should not be embraced.  We must learn from the church’s tragic mistakes over the centuries as well as from its examples of faithful witness and contextual adaptation. Panelists will offer reflections on massive historical problems such as colonialism, but they also will highlight cultural discernment decisions that present opportunities for faithfulness in individual churches. Our aim is for a global conversation that also feels very local. 

S19: 11AM: Hope for America’s Most Segregated Hour
David M. Bailey with responses by Mark Charles

In the wake of increased racial tensions, an organization in Richmond, Virginia, steps into the fray with a fresh, bold vision: Raise up and train a new generation of artistic leaders to write a new narrative in the former capital of the Confederacy. With such diverse backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences, could this group of young musicians really bring hope for change to America’s most segregated hour? In this seminar we will watch this documentary film together and have a time of reflection and discussion.

S20: Preaching, Praying, Singing, and the Wonders of Creation 
Ryan Bebej, Deborah Haarsma, and Scott Hoezee (moderator)
Learning more about God’s creation through exploration, observation, and science enhances our worship, our preaching, and our adoration of our great God. This seminar will look at some specific facets of creation and consider how knowing such things expands our awe and so also our delight in talking about, singing about, and preaching about the Lord of all creation, whose glory is over all the universe.

S21: Songwriters and Scholars in Partnership: Deepening Worship Music through Historical, Theological, and Scriptural Study
Bruce Benedict, Constance Cherry, Eddie Espinosa, Satrina Reid, and Noel Snyder (moderator)
There are countless songwriters who love the church and want to see local congregations flourish. The same may be said of scholars as well. Yet how often do these two worlds overlap—scholarship and songwriting? How often do these two groups team up to promote vital worship? Panelists will reflect on recent movements toward deepening worship music through promoting greater interaction between scholars and songwriters. With personal stories and observations from both scholars and songwriters, this seminar will explore the following questions:

  • What would prompt songwriters and scholars to work together?
  • What might stand in the way of these partnerships going well?
  • What kind of new music emerges when these two groups spend time together? Is there anything distinctive to be said about scholar-informed songwriting?
  • How does the worship life of churches benefit when contemporary songwriting is prompted by scholarly perspectives—by deep historical, liturgical, theological, Scriptural, and contextual study?
  • What best practices might enable these types of partnerships to happen in a mutually enriching way?

Songwriters, scholars, pastors, worship leaders, and church members all will find something to be encouraged by in this conversation. You might even be inspired to form partnerships of your own!

S22: Worship in Times of Crisis and Trauma
Anthony Bennett, Nancy Kingwood, Nikki Lerner, Bo H. Lim, Kathy Smith (moderator)
How can we plan and lead worship in the midst of a crisis or in the aftermath of a traumatic situation? Whether we’ve faced a school shooting or a racially fueled event or simply recognized the many traumatic experiences in the lives of the people in our congregations, we need to understand the issues involved and be able to process them well in the context of worshiping God. We need to lead the people in expressing their laments to God as well as assure them of God’s healing presence. This seminar will share the wisdom of leaders who’ve been “through the fire” and are eager to help others learn how to prepare for the crises and traumas ahead—because they will come!

S23: Baptism as an Act of Pastoral Care
Joyce Borger (moderator), David Den Haan, Sam Gutierrez, Cindy Holtrop, Emily Vanden Heuvel, Karl VanHarn, and Lisa M. Weaver
We often think of ourselves as passive witnesses when we are present for the baptism of another person. But could it be that there is a lot more going on? What changes when we view each baptism as our own renewal ceremony? What difference might the remembrance of our baptismal identity make in our daily living? How might pastoral care draw on the significance of our baptism? Listen to this panel of pastors and practitioners as together we examine the sacrament of baptism, its meaning and significance, and how it might be a foundation for pastoral work with those of us living with mental illnesses, struggling with questions of identity, approaching death, or other life challenges. 

S24: Worship 101: Skills & Drills for the Emerging Worship Planner
Calvin College Worship Apprentices and Paul Ryan
How does one design worship to enable the full participation of the people? What practices for emerging worship planners are best to acquire? In this seminar we will introduce two vital practices for planning worship: choosing songs and choosing Scripture. For each practice we will explore multiple drills that emerging worship planners can repeat in order to grow in creativity and faithfulness. This seminar is designed especially for emerging worship planners and those who mentor them. 

S25: Godspeed: Holy Pacing for Faithful Ministry
Julie Canlis

How can we be faithful disciples of Jesus in a frantically busy world? What can we learn about the pace of faithful ministry? Come explore the compelling world of rural Scotland, and what it taught a family engaged in contemporary parish ministry. Learn from one of the key collaborators in a 35-minute documentary, Godspeed, and begin to discern God’s calling on the pacing of your own life. Together we will engage in conversations about holy pacing for faithful ministry in your own communities.

S26: We All Worship: Dis-Abling the Ways We Are Gathered and Sent
Benjamin T. Conner, Barbara J. Newman, and L. S. Carlos Thompson
Participants will consider the theological rationale for implementing a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach to congregational worship and discipleship. They will be introduced to three key UDL principles and will be given examples of UDL in action in congregations. The session will also attempt to embody the principles being taught. 

S27: How Music Deepens Participation in the Lord’s Supper and Baptisms: Insights from Global Cultures
María Eugenia Cornou (moderator), Dama Daniel, Birgitta Johnson, Jean Kidula, Roberta King, Eric Sarwar, and Marcell Steuernagel
All around the world, Christians sing together before, during, and/or after celebrating the Lord’s Supper and baptism. Learn from the richly varied practices of communities all over the world. Explore memorable, deeply loved heartsongs for these occasions in a variety of cultural contexts. Reflect on your own context and the heartsongs you already know, love, and use regularly. Discern how your own congregation’s diet of heartsongs might grow over the next few years as a way of entering even more deeply into the beauty of these celebrations.

S28: You Expect Me to Do What with These?! An Introduction to the Art of Handbell Ringing 
Norma de Waal Malefyt
This seminar is an introduction to the techniques of group handbell ringing and its potential for use as a small group ministry of a church or a worshiping community. Those registering for this hands-on seminar should be able to read musical notation.

S29: Mentoring Young Worship Leaders in the Church
Lynn Barger Elliott, M. Sydney Park, Nicole Martin-St. Victor, Dale Sieverding, and Joanna Wigboldy (moderator)
What role do young people have in leading worship in your congregation? In this session, participants will learn from the experience of ministry leaders from multiple church contexts, asking questions such as:
Why is it important to you to include young people in leading worship?
What best practices have you learned? What challenges have you faced?
How do you create a space in which young people are equipped to lead well and the congregation is equipped to receive their leadership?
This session will provide a framework and practical tips is for adults interested in starting or honing their practices of mentoring middle and high school worship leaders in their congregation.

S30: The Father and His Two Sons: A Story of Homecoming
Laura de Jong (moderator), Larry Gerbens, Steve Prince, Edward Riojas, and John August Swanson

The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 is one of the most powerful and evocative stories Jesus told. Its universal themes of greed and regret, arrogance and repentance, sin and redemption, jealousy and acceptance, and compassionate forgiveness resonate richly with each retelling. This parable has inspired the work of artists throughout the centuries. In many times and places and using many methods and media, artists have sought to visualize this story. Despite the differences in their work, the message of God’s love remains constant. Join three artists and their collector in this conversation around the art and story of forgiveness as illustrated by the parable of the prodigal son.

S31: Hands on Clay: Create, Reflect, Celebrate
Anna Greidanus
Join an invitation to engage human hands and the material of the earth as a means of expressing beyond words. This seminar in clay will emphasize the gifts of human imagination, the responsive nature of clay as material, and gestures of the hand. Exploring clay as vehicle and metaphor in contemplative expression, material-based exercises encourage ideas for artistic engagement in worship. Explore intersections of creativity, reflection, and celebration with no previous studio art experience required. Artists in any medium also welcome. Limited to 12.

S32: La próxima adoración
Sandra María Van Opstal
La Mesa es una imagen dominante para los seguidores de Cristo que se reúnen juntos para adorarlo. Comunica amistad, compromiso e intimidad. La iglesia necesita líderes que trabajen con el objetivo de ver a cada tribu y lengua presente, reconciliada y dispuesta a celebrar la diversidad en la Mesa de la adoración en comunidad. Este taller está diseñado para inspirar y equipar a los líderes para dirigir la adoración multiétnica y multilingüe en el contexto de las iglesias locales. Este seminario proporcionará herramientas prácticas aprendidas de experiencias concretas tanto en entornos globales como urbanos.


Concurrent Plenary Sessions (10:15-11:15 a.m.)

The Many Streams of African American Congregational Song
James Abbington, Robert Batastini, Leo Davis, Grace Ingrid Faniel, Jason Max Ferdinand, Birgitta Johnson, Bryan Johnson, Carl MaultsBy, Judith McAllister, Anthony B. Vinson, and Lisa M. Weaver

Beyond Teamwork: Cultivating Spiritual Community Among Your Worship Leaders
Ruth Haley Barton          

Workshop titles and descriptions coming soon.