Why I Chose the Institute for Worship Studies (Doctor of Worship Studies Program)

Dr. Clayton GraduationWe recently got back from a trip to Florida. We traveled to my graduation/commencement ceremony at the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies in Orange Park, FL (www.IWS.edu). We also managed to do 5 days at Disney World for family vacation, but that’s another story.

I started the Doctor of Worship Studies program in 2007, after a year off from completing my MA in Worship. Interestingly, I began my studies the first session after the passing of Bob Webber, the founder of the school and worship guru. It was a heavy atmosphere, but profoundly formative for me regardless. I got turned on to Webber’s writings in the late 90s in Worship Leader magazine. His monthly column always drew my attention as I began to wade into the waters of leading worship. There was a depth to his writing on worship that attracted me and made me want more. Before finishing seminary, I knew I wanted to continue my studies at IWS.

Here are the big factors that impressed me about IWS and made it one of the best experiences of my life:

  • The focus on worship (not just music). It is unusual and unique for a school to focus that greatly on one area of study.
  • The professors. I received instruction from Andy Hill, Lester Ruth, Connie Cherry, Jeff Barker, and Reggie Kidd. They’ve said stuff that has stuck with me to this day and shaped how I do ministry. Not only were the profs great individually, but the courses were all team taught by 2 faculty – usually from diverse denominational heritages. It was so helpful to see unity and respect modeled in everything.
  • The communal feel. Sharing meals, singing in chapel, and working on practicum projects in a group. You get connected to people in a very intimate way – far beyond just lecture in class.
  • The diversity. The cohort I did my learning with was a great mixed-bag: Wesleyan, United Methodist, Mennonite, Anglican, Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Charismatic, Foursquare, Evangelical Free, etc. The variety of experiences and backgrounds creates a layer of richness that you can’t really get any other way.
  • The curriculum. Every course in the doctoral program was fascinating to me: history of worship, renewal of the arts in worship, the liturgical calendar, and sacred actions (sacraments). Every course was very self-directed, especially in the final projects. You could take a direction that works for you and run with it. The practicum experiences were also invaluable. Planning worship services with a diverse group in a short time frame was challenging and inspiring.

IWS Graduates 2012

Recap from "Exploring the Future Church" Session 3

If you’d like to follow along you can download the notes from Session 3 here: Session 3 Handout

Big Takeaway from Session 3: We took some time to read an article called “A Rite of Passage“ (p. 12-16) that describes baptismal rituals in the early church. The symbolism and community participation involved in this rite would have had a profound effect on the Christian community. It has many similarities to modern day initiation ceremonies in social organizations. We then reviewed “Church Bs” membership practice for our comparison. This church talks about membership being similar to “teammates,” which is a helpful analogy using modern language. We also wrestled with questions around how to contextualize membership in an “open source/wiki” world. How do you help people belong to a community without setting expectations that are either too low or too high?

 

Recap from "Exploring the Future Church" Session 2

“Exploring the Future Church” is a series of discussions around the question, “What does it mean to be in a faith community?” These sessions are the foundation of the ministry intervention for my doctoral thesis (Discerning the Meaning of Church Membership at Theophilus). If you’d like to follow along you can download the notes from Session 2 here: Session 2 Handout

Big Takeaway from Session 2: God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15) was meant to be a blessing for all people (Genesis 12:3). The fulfillment of God’s promise to bless all people is realized through the Holy Spirit working in and through the church (beginning at Pentecost, leading to today, and into the future). There is some difficulty in explaining ideas like “covenant” and “Kingdom” today. They are foreign terms for most people. God’s Kingdom and covenant can be simply understood as “God’s love working to bless all people and bring peace.” When it comes to the church, people are wary of joining institutions that are interested in their own preservation. The foundation of the church has to be authentic and genuine relationships.