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Intentional, Missional, Communal Worship

Each weekday, Calvin University students take time to worship together in a chapel service.

Calvin University’s mission is to equip students to think deeply, to act justly, and to live wholeheartedly as Christ’s agents of renewal in the world. To carry out this mission, Calvin has intentionally integrated faith and learning into every discipline across the university.

The establishment of the de Vries Institute for Global Faculty Development in 2019 only strengthened Calvin’s commitment to equip its faculty to connect their Christian faith with their academic disciplines. This is modeled for students daily in classrooms throughout the university.

But at 10 a.m. each weekday, there’s an intentional 20-minute pause from the academic enterprise: chapel.

“Short, daily worship provides a focused opportunity to pray and listen to God’s Word within the busyness and activity of the day,” university pastor Mary Hulst said. “Regular, daily participation in such a practice provides the greatest benefit to the worshiper to recenter their communal identity and vocation before God.”

The daily chapel services are uniquely liturgical, focusing on communal practices of worship such as prayer, singing, listening to God’s Word, and testimony. The services feature a multiplicity of styles and traditions and include many cultural, traditional, and contemporary expressions representing the diversity of Calvin’s learning community.

In addition to the 20-minute chapels, students, faculty, and staff also engage in campus-wide Bible studies. This past fall, 16 groups met to study the gospel of Mark, which is also the book that Hulst has been preaching through on Wednesdays during chapel. The nine-week Bible study curriculum was written by Hulst and Sarah VerMerris, a student at Calvin Theological Seminary who also serves as Calvin’s discipleship coordinator. 

In that role, VerMerris leads the Barnabas Team, which provides spiritual programming for Calvin’s residence halls. Each hall has a discipleship assistant who oversees a team of student leaders that plans programming related to spiritual disciplines, including Word, worship, prayer, and community. Each building offers at least one weekly Bible study as well as monthly dorm worship, prayer gatherings, and other spiritually focused community events.

The goal of these and other communal practices at Calvin is to help members of the community orient themselves to their triune God, the mission of the university, and to one another.

"I love the moment when a student realizes that a spiritual practice isn’t some disconnected or mechanized habit, but that it has the potential to wrap itself within the daily, common patterns and routines of their life, creating space for them to encounter a God who is already present and active,” VerMerris said. “When the intimacy of God meets the ‘everydayness’ of a student's life, it changes how they relate and embrace their life of discipleship. Being part of that process is one of the richest joys of my work.”


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