The Voice: Spring 2002
Students plan their own worship service on campus
By Sally Jongsma
Rochelle Senti is a gifted musician, a soprano soloist who sings in concert
choir and a violist who plays in the chamber orchestra. She loves the
classical repertoire, and she also loves contemporary praise songs. As her work study
job, Senti coordinates and plans GIFT (Growing in Faith Together), a student-led worship
service held on campus twice per month and usually attended by over 600
GIFT began three years ago to provide an opportunity for students used to
contemporary worship styles in their home churches to worship in a way that
wasnt readily available in local churches, says Senti. Today it retains its expressive
praise character but it has also changed, she says.
Ive gotten more requests to sing hymns recently, she says. Students have told
her theyd like to have meatier messages in the services. Senti takes these
There are so many different ways to worship, she says. People come from
many backgrounds and experiences; instruments come in many shapes and sounds. She wants
to incorporate the breadth of this diversity into campus communal worship.
But she also knows that planning worship is more than throwing diverse elements
together. Thats why she was so appreciative of the workshop for Dordt worship
leaders led by Dr. John Witvliet in late January.
What we learned was very practical and expanded my understanding of what goes
into worship, Senti says. She found particularly helpful Witvliets conclusion that worship planners
should help participants meet God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God the
Father is almighty, transcendent, and creator of all. Christ the Son came to
earth as Savior, friend, and encourager. God the Holy Spirit lives and moves
Praise and worship tends to focus more on the second and third aspects
of Gods character, Senti says, noting, Maybe thats why were seeing more blended
worshipwere realizing we need to respond to all aspects of Gods nature.
Senti believes that the majority of Dordt students want a balance in worship
Many like to attend a church where theres an organ and choir as
well as contemporary praise songs and a variety of instruments, she says. Some
students will seek out more liturgically traditional worship services but also attend GIFT.
Others, she acknowledges, feel that a contemporary worship style is the only way
they can worship. And others still do not feel at all comfortable with
the more expressive style they find at GIFT.
I see GIFT as one of the spiritual activities available to Dordt students,
says Senti. Students need to worship in congregations with people of all ages,
but this is good too.
Senti believes that what she and others learned in the worship workshop will
bring some changes to GIFT services, but it reaffirmed her view that worship
can take many different forms.
Whatever the style, worship needs to follow basic principles, she says. Among other
considerations, songs chosen must say what we believe and they need to be
interesting for people to sing and musicians to play. She acknowledges that some
contemporary songs are simple and repetitive and that hymns often have more depth,
but feels that praise songs have a valuable place.
What draws me to praise and worship songs is often their simplicity. They
give me time to reflect on a single thought and do it while
Im singing. They also allow singers and musicians at many levels of ability
to participate. So many kids today play guitar. These songs are easy to
learn and can be sung anywhere.
Kids love to singGIFT gives a great opportunity for that. But it is
not as though GIFT is the only important time of the week. It
is important to have a concentrated time of praise, but it is also
important to me to enjoy and work hard at my studies, she says.
Thats worship too.