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At a worship service during the 2014 Vital Worship Grants Program Colloquium at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich., board member Doug Brouwer, a pastor at International Protestant Church in Zurich, Switzerland, gave a brief message. He talked about Ephesians 4, where Paul writes of the growth that is available to those who live in love and keep the unity of the Spirit.

“In these words is the expectation that we will grow,” he said. “One thing you can never say about Paul is that he sets the bar too low!” he added.

Nor was the bar set low for the more than 100 grant recipients from 2013 (those concluding their grant year) and 2014 (those just beginning their grant year) who came to Calvin for three days of conversation about worship renewal.

By the time the colloquium concluded, attendees had attended three plenaries, three worship services, two sessions just for grant recipients, two workshops as part of a Day of Learning event (also open to the public), a poster session, two dinners, and two lunches, all of which featured numerous opportunities for prayer, reflection, and conversation.

The pace was quick, but intentionally so, said Vital Worship director Kathy Smith.

“The synergy at this event between old and new grant recipients is exciting,” said Smith, “and very important because so much learning happens through conversations over meals, while viewing posters produced by the concluding grant projects, and in many other venues, both informal and formal. We pack a lot into three days, but, we think, for good reasons.”

Indeed, one critical goal for the annual event is to encourage new grant recipients as their year begins by giving them a chance to learn from not just Worship Institute staff and other experts, but also to create opportunities for learning from fellow churches, schools, seminaries, and more—folks in the trenches who are hard at the work of worship renewal.

This year's attendees at the colloquium are part of a history at Calvin that goes back to 2000 when the Worship Institute gave its first grants. The 2014 list includes another 31 projects that received $300,000 in grants with funding provided by Lilly Endowment, Inc.

All told, grant recipients for 2014 represent congregations and schools from 31 denominations in 21 states and two Canadian provinces. The group includes 22 congregations and regional church bodies; seven colleges, universities and seminaries; and two ministry organizations. An advisory board of pastors and teachers from a variety of backgrounds assisted in the grant selections.

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