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Student-led worshippers gather off-campus

Photo by Nicole Schmitt.
Photo by Nicole Schmitt.

Each Tuesday night Calvin students from all class levels gather at a house on Ridgewood Avenue for a time of worship.  This gathering, named House Worship, began last year as a meeting of a small group of friends.

Senior Josh Van Zeelt hosts the event each week with his housemates; he talked about the idea that led to the start of House Worship.

“We were doing a private Bible study with all our friends and we talked at one point about how we didn’t want it to be an exclusive thing for just us,” Van Zeelt said. “We wanted to branch out to the community around us and wondered what a good way to do that would be.”

Senior Jeff Vander Kamp, Van Zeelt’s housemate, added that they started the event after experiencing the community of dorm worship during their freshman and sophomore years.

“We wanted to continue dorm worship, but we weren’t in the dorms anymore,” Vander Kamp said.  “We really enjoyed the sense of community and fellowship with one another.”

They soon began to invite other friends into their home on Tuesday nights and through word of mouth and Facebook invites, the group grew from a small gathering of about 15 people into a group that now includes around 50 people.

“We have freshmen, sophomores, juniors, seniors and even Grand Valley students,” said senior Scott Stensrud, another resident in the house on Ridgewood.  “Everyone who comes has to be really intentional about it and it means that they want to be there and want to be committed to being there — they have the right mindset and are there to worship God.”

Senior Bethany Engel, who helped start House Worship last year, thinks that the ability to participate and lead worship gives worshippers a sense of ownership in the gathering and keeps them coming back.

“It’s not just a single few who have led every week,” Engel said. “It’s been people who have been participating who put it together and give it the sense of community it was meant to have.”

Junior Daniel Paulson, who recently started attending House Worship (and has already planned and led a recent gathering), also feels that the sense of community among attendees contributes to House Worship’s continued existence.

“It’s essentially just a bunch of friendly people coming together to worship God.  They love people and they love God, so it’s the best of both worlds.”

“There’s something really genuine about it.  It’s not pretentious; it’s just a house and it’s really real,” added senior Marie Bloem.

Those involved in House Worship are committed to making it an open space where anyone is welcome and can worship in a variety of ways.

“We worship through song, through food, through community, through prayer, through discussion, through reflection and through testimony,” said Stensrud.

“People are more than willing to get to know anyone who walks through the door,” added Van Zeelt.  “It’s my house and I still don’t know half the people there so there’s always new people to meet.”

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