A Calvin Theological Seminary Publication by Students & Alumni
Chapel Worship at CTS

Chapel Worship at CTS

Chapel Worship at CTS


This is a picture of what our chapel service looked like on Wednesday, September 25, 2013, during our closing song.  The KERUX decided to contact Professor Howard Vanderwell, of the Chapel Planning Committee, to discuss chapel worship at CTS and what is in store for the coming year.

So, Professor Vanderwell, this first question may be an obvious one, nonetheless, the Kerux would love to hear your take on it: What is worship?

Worship is that sacred time when God and his children get together and engage in a dialog or conversation. We have much we need and desire to say to God; He certainly has much to say to us (and in the process there is often much we share with each other). Sometime we do that privately, and sometime we do that corporately. When we do it privately we normally call it “devotions” or “Quiet Time”; when we do it corporately, we normally call it “public worship”.  Chapel at CTS is in that latter category.

Although we have seen an increase chapel attendance, this semester, there are those among us who feel that Calvin Theological Seminary is a learning institution and not a church; therefore, we should not be worshipping together.  What would be your response to that?

I just don’t know where that idea comes from. Is church the only place/occasion we can worship? I’ve sent my children to Christian Schools and they always had chapel services there. I’m convinced that our chapel services are a time when we all say, “for right now in addition to our private devotions, let’s do it together as a community!” After all, if we are a community where we are aiming to be formed for ministry, then the formation of our spirit and our faith-life ought to be very high on the list of priorities. And in what better way can we contribute to that than by worshiping together as a community. Even though we are not a church, if we are a community being formed for ministry, worship becomes an essential!

Additionally, some have said they do not attend chapel because the worship style does not offer enough diversity.  Any thoughts on that?

I have a good bit of sympathy for that viewpoint (except the “not attending” part!) Since we are a community from many backgrounds and experiences, we can beautifully portray the diversity of the body of Christ in its worship practices. We do try to represent that, but do so inadequately at present. I’d like many students from widely different experiences to come and join us in planning and leading worship that will show such diversity authentically. I want to learn from my brothers and sisters in other parts of the family of God. We all can learn to appreciate each other’s patterns of worship.  But I wish we could focus on patterns of worship rather than “style”.

With the exception of you, Dean Sajdak, President Medenblik, and a couple of veteran students, you have a completely new Chapel Planning Committee this year.  What are some of the hopes and aspirations that you would want each new member of that team to learn from your leadership and from planning chapel?

I love seeing the mix of student planners that we have, and watching them cooperate together, learn from each other, and become appreciatively stretched in the process.  I’m gratified to work with International students who bring such a healthy balance to our community. I see Pres.Medenblik, Dean Sajdak and myself as coaches of the team. We’ll encourage them, assist them, and support them, but they are very ready and willing to capably carry the ball. So I give thanks for each of them!

What should we, the Calvin Theological Seminary community, expect worship to look like as we delve deeper into the semester?  Is there any particular chapel theme for the year that you would like to share?

We’re still in the process of finding our way with regards to a pattern and theme for the year. You can expect that we’ll focus on our anticipation for the coming of Christ during Advent, and personal reflections on the passion of Christ during Lent. You can expect that we’ll be celebrating the Lord’s Supper at the end of the first semester (December 13) and at the end of the second semester (May 9). You will find us regularly practicing a sense of community and caring as we pray for one another, our communities and our world. You’ll hear God’s Word, and you’ll join with other members of the community to sing.  And you can expect to return to your classes and studies renewed and nourished in spirit!