January 4, 2001
Calvin Jazz Vespers Continue
EDITOR'S NOTE: Jazz Vespers is held at 9 p.m. in the Cave (coffee shop) on Calvin's campus.
A New York City pastor who created a Jazz Vespers service at his church was asked if he was concerned that jazz might attract the wrong crowd, the "wayward, night-clubbing" crowd. He replied: "That's who we want. The good ones can stay at home."
That slightly tongue-in-cheek approach also informs the new Jazz Vespers service at Calvin College, which began on an every-other-week basis in November.
"We wanted to do something different," says Calvin's Ron Rienstra (above), who is working with a student-led planning team on the Jazz Vespers. "For some students what we do (at Calvin) with the LOFT (Sunday evening service) and daily Chapel works. It's a good fit. But other students can't connect to those because of where they're at in their life. We're hopeful that Jazz Vespers will be something that will reach students and help them."
Rienstra says the Calvin Jazz Vespers are patterned after the traditional services of the Anglican and Episcopalian traditions, including music, prayer and Scripture.That's the Vespers side of the equation.
But the Jazz side comes into play with how those elements are presented. Readings are often poems and observations from a variety of authors, some Christian and some not. Music, led by the Jazz Vespers band, is set to free-flowing jazz harmonies and improvisations. So, the first week there was a reading set to a jazz version of "I Need Thee." Leading the way is former Calvin student Daniel Richardson, the music director at First AME church in Grand Rapids and a professional jazz musician who also works with the Calvin Gospel Choir.
The end result is a service unlike any other ever seen at Calvin, despite its traditional roots.
"It's exciting," says Rienstra, "and a little scary too. It's something different for Calvin, for West Michigan. But if there's anyplace where a traditionally suspect music genre can be put to use for prayer it ought to be Calvin."
The next Jazz Vespers will be Thursday, January 10. There will be no Vespers on January 24, but the schedule will resume on January 31 and continue every other week until Spring Break. After Spring Break Rienstra hope to begin a weekly schedule with one week on campus and the next week off campus, including at local coffee houses, restaurants, bookstores and more.