President's Message - Letting the Light Shine
President Gaylen J. Byker
President Gaylen J. Byker
"… though location and buildings may change, the foundation of Calvin College remains secure."
To those who ask if the Calvin of today bears any resemblance to the Calvin of the Franklin campus era, I often mention that the scripture verse that appears over the door of our chapel today is the same one that appeared above the Franklin Street chapel door. Coincidence? No. The inscription underscores the fact that though location and buildings may change, the foundation of Calvin College remains secure.

The verse, Psalm 36:9, says simply, "In Your light we see light."

Having that verse above our chapel entrance is important. Maybe we should put it above every door in every building on campus, for an education at Calvin College does not limit God to things "religious" or "theological." Rather, God's light shines at Calvin College in every classroom, laboratory, meeting, athletic contest, and residence hall. It has been that way for 128 years, and daily the people of Calvin recommit themselves to living and learning in that light.

I believe that the most significant movement at Calvin in the last ten years has been the simultaneous growth both in academic excellence and spiritual development. It is a challenge for any institution to improve in one area or the other; at Calvin, both have occurred. It gives us great joy to witness how faith and learning enhance and inspire each other.

As a campus community, we began 2004 by studying Isaiah 60. This chapter starts with a grand flourish, made popular by a number of beloved songs and hymns: "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon you." After a month of reflection, we used the same theme in February's Convocation ceremony, which marked the beginning of second semester.

Since Calvin is an intellectual community, we tend to talk a lot about scholarly achievements, research grants, and citations in academic journals. And rightly so, since part of Calvin's mission statement calls us to "produce substantial and challenging art and scholarship."

But Calvin alumni and friends ought also to know that the spiritual formation of this generation of Christian leaders is of equal importance to the faculty and staff of the college. We want God's light to shine in and through each graduate of this place.

LOFT service
Worship opportunities such as chapel, LOFT, Bible studies, and jazz vespers are available on campus daily.
Student Life staff members estimate that there are over 700 "official" activities each academic year to build the heart and soul.

Vice president for student life Shirley Hoogstra regularly gives a stirring talk to parents about the hopes and dreams we have for Calvin students as they study here. These are some of the same longings as those in the heart of every father and mother. We want students to:

  • love God more after four years here and remember daily how much God loves them;
  • be known by others and know others well;
  • know they have a home here;
  • be challenged to let go of their small ideas and hang on to God's big ideas;
  • identify things of value and reject that which is counterfeit;
  • hunger for justice and stand with the oppressed;
  • be lifelong learners and inspire others to be the same;
  • experience joy at Calvin and be eager to replicate it;
  • believe their lives will influence the kingdom and do whatever it takes to prepare; and
  • exhibit a level of confidence that is commensurate with God's goodness in their lives.

These things matter to us at Calvin, and we intensely pursue creating an atmosphere for such hopes to come true.

We provide scores of worship and spiritual growth experiences each week: daily chapel, the Sunday evening LOFT (Living Our Faith Together) service, residence hall Bible studies, jazz vespers, foreign language chapels, and the like. Student Life staff members estimate that there are over 700 "official" activities each academic year to build the heart and soul.

Spiritual development coordinators Robert and Cherith Nordling recruit and mentor students for the Barnabas Team—young Christians who mentor and challenge students in the residence halls to live together as the Body of Christ. The team spent over 4,200 hours in ministry during second semester alone!

Each week, student worship apprentices—guided by Dale Cooper, college chaplain; Laura Smit, dean of the chapel; and Cindy deJong, coordinator of worship—plan liturgy, music, and worship for the campus.

We encourage our students to consider a call to ministry through the Jubilee Fellows Program, through which those who are strongly inclined toward spiritual leadership are placed in summer ministry internships in congregations in the U.S. and abroad.

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