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Learning About the Holy Spirit
September 25, 2007

Faith at CalvinFor 2007-2008 the Chapel staff at Calvin College has planned a worship series around the theme of the Holy Spirit, a theme not often emphasized in the Reformed tradition of Christianity.

“God is triune: Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” said Calvin coordinator of worship Cindy de Jong. “In this community, we talk a lot about the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit has always been there and we want people to become more aware of His presence.”

The Holy Spirit theme allows the Chapel staff to include Pentecost -- the day when the Holy Spirit descended on the early church with the manifestations of a rushing wind, flames of fire and speaking in tongues -- in the round of yearly worship. Traditionally Pentecost falls on the church calendar in late spring or early summer, after Calvin has concluded classes.

“We’ll go through the entire liturgical year and miss Pentecost,” de Jong said. “I was longing to celebrate Pentecost in the Calvin community.”

The chapels will follow the normal weekly rotation of teaching, prayers and praise, said de Jong, while incorporating creative imagery, sounds and other elements to represent the person of the Spirit and his work.

In one of the first chapels of the series, organizers used large fans to simulate wind and passed out red, white, orange and yellow balloons to represent the breath of the Holy Spirit.

“Red and white are the colors of Pentecost, but we put some yellow and orange in there to make it look like flames,” de Jong explained. She said that several chapels will deal with how believers perceive the Spirit through the five senses.

Underlying all of the chapels, de Jong stressed is the understanding that the Holy Spirit is the actual director of worship.

“The Spirit works in our planning and our spontaneity, and we’re finding the balance in between: recognizing that the Spirit works while people are reading scripture, looking through songbooks and writing prayers and also being open to responding in the moment to how the Spirit is directing us. What I see in our chapel services is that things often happen that are so much better than we planned.”

De Jong admitted that the Holy Spirit theme may encourage some dramatic expressions of worship associated with charismatic and Pentecostal worship. Organizers are open to these things, she said, as long as they follow a biblical models.

“People come from a lot of traditions that people feel uncomfortable with -- whether it’s a person coming from a high church, liturgical tradition being uncomfortable with charismatic expression or a person from a charismatic tradition being uncomfortable with liturgy. We want to break down barriers and recognize that God is working in all of these traditions,” she said.

That includes the Reformed tradition, de Jong emphasized.

“If you look at the Reformed teachers, they all talk about the Holy Spirit. Their experience of the Holy Spirit might not have had a charismatic expression, but the reliance on the Holy Spirit is always there.”

De Jong said that the Chapel staff is eager to see how the Holy Spirit will lead in the coming year.

“When we started talking about the Holy Spirit, people said, ‘Oh, that’s kind of dangerous. You don’t know what may happen.’ I’m kind of hoping something unexpected does happen,” she said.

~written by Calvin staff writer Myrna Anderson

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