Anamnesis: The IWS Community Newsletter


From the Editor

By Kent Walters, D.W.S., Director of Alumni Activities

Your Story/His Story: Tell His Wonderful Deeds

Kent Walters

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart;
    I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.
 I will be glad and rejoice in you;
    I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High (Ps 9:1-2 NIV).

Redemptive storytelling—it always stirs the soul and initiates praise to God. It begins with simply looking for the gracious hand of God in life’s circumstances and then gratefully remembering.

I love interacting with IWS students, faculty and staff each session and hearing their stories as they “tell of his wonderful deeds,” following the example of the psalmist David. Such sharing is an act of worship for the testifier and the listener as both enter into giving thanks with gladness and rejoicing. Every session is full of this kind of sharing—personally, at meals, in the classroom.

An occasion of powerful storytelling occurred during the recent June DWS 703 Practicum presentation. After befriending a homeless family, God led Vaughan Robison and his family to launch a medical ministry in his county: The Emmanuel Project. Scroll down to the article and audio clip.

A corporate occasion of unique storytelling occurred in chapel this June when four faculty members reenacted their daily morning commute to campus singing spontaneous songs of faith and praise. Here’s the video of that day’s chapel. The opening worship is led from their “car”.


The greatest story of all—God’s story—is the heart of worship. If the redemptive story of the work of Jesus Christ is not told, sung, celebrated, enacted in a service, can it rightly be called worship? This edition of Anamnesis features the audio of Bob Webber’s last public sermon in which he articulates the essential content of worship: “Worship Does God’s Story.”

May you be inspired to thankful praise and redemptive storytelling as you read the stories of God’s “wonderful deeds” in this edition of Anamnesis.

President’s Column
Worship Theology

By James R. Hart, D.W.S.

“A primary key to reading the entire biblical narrative is this: God is calling his creation to right worship over and over again. . . . Because in that great act we become rightly aligned unto God through Jesus Christ, the primary worshiper.”

Jim Hart
Dr. James Hart

For the past few years, I have been using this time to do a brief review that explores the basics of worship theology, in order to help us be mindful of the “what” and “why” of worship. Let me begin with an explanation of what IWS is. IWS is a school of theology, specifically emphasizing the theology of worship.

What is Theology?

But what is theology? The etymology of the word would suggest that it is the study or reasoning or logic of Theos, the Greek word for God. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “the study of religious faith, practice, and experience, especially the study of God and of God’s relation to the world.” Part of the Wikipedia definition is this: “Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. . . . It occupies itself with the unique content of analyzing the supernatural.” The problem with both definitions and, frankly, with the study of theology in some sectors of the academy, is that these definitions place the student, or the analyzer, or the professor, above the subject being studied. This makes God into a scientific object that can be observed under an appropriate spiritual microscope. Furthermore, God would be subject to such analysis and, so to speak, tamed.

[Click here to continue reading or download the PDF … ]



Founder’s Feature: Worship Does God’s Story

By Robert E. Webber, Th.D.

Sep 11, 2006 Healing Service

“Worship Does God’s Story” is the last sermon Bob preached. It was Sunday, September 10, 2006, at his church, Harbert Community Church, near his Lake Michigan home. Six months later he entered eternity following a battle with pancreatic cancer. Though weakened physically, the strength and conviction in his voice bear witness to the power of the Holy Spirit in this sermonic swan song.

Bob began by relating a conversation he had with a pastor friend who told him that he had no idea what the phrase “worship does God’s story” means. Bob concluded, if a theologically trained pastor doesn’t understand, it is likely many others don’t understand. He continues with a compelling description of God’s story—the redemptive story, the Good News—that is the glorious and essential content of biblical, Christ-centered worship. Bob’s explanation of both personal and corporate worship is priceless.

Personal worship is not about me. . . . [It is] contemplation on the mighty deeds of God. . . . Contemplation is very different than meditation. Meditation means to search out. . . . Contemplation is delight. Sheer, unadulterated delight! Contemplation, which is our personal worship, is: “Wow! What a Story!” Contemplation, which is our personal worship, is: “I got it I got it! I got it!”

Bob Webber

Listen to this sermon and you will be stirred by the passionate heart of our founder, and you will be confronted with his consuming vision for worship renewal that birthed and has sustained the institute that bears his name for 23 years. (By the way, his name was added to the school’s title only after his death. He wouldn’t allow it during his life.)

During the sermon, Bob quotes a portion of a 2nd-century Easter sermon by Melito of Sardis, On Pascha. Here’s a link to background and the text of this remarkable sermon.

Now, sit back and listen to Bob:

Robert Webber: Worship Does God’s Story

IWS Degree Opens Doors in Academia

While IWS degrees are categorized as professional, increasingly institutions have sought our graduates for academic positions given the proven nature and breadth of our programs and the reputation of our graduates. Recently, three alumni were appointed to influential positions in major institutions due, in part, to the their D.W.S. credentials. We celebrate these appointments! I can imagine the big grin on Bob Webber’s face and the hop and skip in his step were he present to hear this news, which is ongoing evidence that his vision for worship renewal continues to unfold to the glory of God!

Marc Brown, D.W.S. 2014

Assistant Professor of Church Music and Worship, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas

“The search committee viewed my D.W.S. degree as a significant asset.”

Marc Brown

On August 1, after serving local churches for twenty-five years in full-time worship ministry, I began a full-time teaching position at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary as Assistant Professor of Church Music and Worship. With enthusiasm, I am looking forward to teaching courses in worship planning, methodology, theology of worship, applied voice, as well as directing a choral ensemble. While I will eventually work with bachelors, masters, and doctoral students, I will focus most of my efforts on the worship students at Texas Baptist College, the undergraduate students of Southwestern’s School of Church Music and Worship.

Southwestern is a Southern Baptist seminary but trains students from different worshiping traditions. Because of the diverse worship cultures represented at Southwestern, the search committee viewed my D.W.S. degree as a significant asset. IWS’s reputation for strong academics in worship renewal played a strong role in helping me follow God’s call as He focuses my work from leading in the local church to training the next generation of worship leaders. I will always be grateful for the friendships, mentoring, and learning I received during my time at IWS.

Jonathan Powers, D.W.S. 2013

Associate Dean of the E. Stanley Jones School of Mission and Ministry, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky

“IWS has played a significant role in my formation not only as a worship pastor but also as a scholar, teacher, and author.”

Jonathan Powers

In July, I was named the Associate Dean of the newly formed School of Mission and Ministry at Asbury Theological Seminary. In addition to my role as Associate Dean, I continue to teach courses in worship, sacramental theology, and lyrical theology. I’ve been blessed to contribute to a number of recent publications, including a chapter on worship and liturgy in the book The Next Methodism, a chapter on baptism in the book Exploring the Call, and a chapter on worship and preaching in The Cambridge Companion to American Protestantism. I served as general editor for the book New Life in the Risen Christ: A Wesleyan Theology of Baptism and the hymnal Our Great Redeemer’s Praise, both of which will be released in the late fall of 2022. 

IWS has played a significant role in my formation not only as a worship pastor but also as a scholar, teacher, and author. My time at IWS helped me think critically about relationships that exist in worship, such as practice and theology, doxology and mission, congregational participation and cultural expression. These relationships have helped me navigate important issues of ecclesiology and lead conversations on what it means for the church to be both a gathered and sent people. These skills are part of what led to my appointment as the Associate Dean. Additionally, much of my writing and academic study has focused on topics that first piqued my interest during my time at IWS. For example, my IWS doctoral thesis has served as the basis for three chapters that have been published in collective works. I have been given numerous opportunities to speak and write on Robert Webber’s unique contributions to worship studies, especially given my current PhD work, which focuses on Webber’s practical worship theology. Students, administrators, and church leaders alike have appreciated the way IWS grounded me in historical and theological aspects of worship while helping me remain mindful of practical and contextual dynamics. Every day I am immensely grateful for the education and formation I received while at IWS.

Bill Wolf, D.W.S. 2018

Associate Professor of Worship & Theology and Director of the Worship Leadership and Creative Arts Ministry programs, Johnson University, Knoxville, Tennessee

“What I learned and experienced at IWS prepared me for this new position and I could not be more thankful.”

Bill Wolf

Last month, after eleven years as Dean of the Chapel at Johnson University, I was appointed to the faculty as Associate Professor of Worship & Theology and Director of the Worship Leadership and Creative Arts Ministry programs. To call this a dream position would be an understatement because when I started my career as a worship pastor I honestly never even dreamed such a position would be in my future. Eleven years ago, however, a single conversation took place that changed everything. 

As I was starting my new role as Dean of the Chapel in 2011, Johnson’s then president, Dr. Gary Weedman, introduced me to his friend and former colleague, Dinelle Frankland. “I know you are passionate about Worship Ministry,” Dr. Weedman began. “If you want to pursue it academically, there is no one better you could talk to.” Dinelle and I met in her office on a cold December day. She introduced me to the field of worship studies and, most importantly, to the place where I could go to fully immerse myself in it: The Robert E. Webber Institute of Worship Studies. It was like the moment in 2 Kings 6 when Elisha prayed for his servant’s eyes to be opened and he immediately saw the hills around them protected by a heavenly army. My eyes were opened to a reality of which I was, up to that point, completely unaware. Dr. Weedman was right. I had always been passionate about worship leading; Dinelle helped me see that worship leading could include worship teaching. 

I owe everything about my new position to that conversation. The years I spent at IWS earning my D.W.S. not only provided the academic credentials needed for such a position but also opened my mind and transformed my thinking about worship. What I learned in the classroom and experienced in chapel at IWS prepared me for this new position and I could not be more thankful. As with any new job, I recognize there will be an enormous learning curve. I am humbled and even nervous by all that I do not yet know about this role. But I am encouraged as there is no doubt God has been preparing me for such a position. And there is no doubt IWS played an integral role in that preparation. 

Alumni Stories

Brad Campbell, M.W.S. 2021

I recently accepted a position as Worship Minister at Plainfield Christian Church in Plainfield, Indiana. I am continuing my graduate education studying 20th Century Liturgical Revolutions alongside Dr. Lester Ruth at Duke Divinity School. I am also working alongside Bill Wolf (D.W.S. 2018) to formulate an experience called Word & Table for churches who are seeking to embrace the formative practices of Christian worship.

Our project, Word & Table: A Liturgical Gathering, is not a chasing after old ways of worship, an attempt to recover a long-passed golden era of Christendom, or a rejection of contemporary forms of worship that have simply grown too familiar. Rather, it is a seeking after that which Christians of every era have sought—a deep connection with God through prayer and Scripture, silence and song, bread and wine, and in and above all these things, the Spirit of God in Christ.

Bill and I have been leading new-liturgical gatherings in Knoxville under the name “Word & Table” for about a year. The gathering (aside from being a worshipful experience for participants) is a gauge for Bill and me to think about new ways to teach ancient practices of worship in an increasingly post-industrial, postmodern experience of Christian faith. It is our hope to create an entity that travels to local churches (much like Andrew Peterson’s “Behold the Lamb of God”) and tells the story of God through the expanded fourfold liturgy. Many have become skeptical of the ritual and “rote” nature of liturgy, claiming that the liturgy is too dry, ancient, or inaccessible (and, quite frankly, not entertaining enough for some!). Through story, song, prayer, and Scripture, we hope to guide leaders and communities to understand the world behind the liturgy—to see God in Christ at work through the Spirit in the life of the world. Logistically, this entire experience will entail a 27-song album (recordings in process), a podcast, a companion book, and ecclesial experiences.

Larry Ellis, M.W.S. 2005, D.W.S. 2008

Here is an update on Larry’s battle with pancreatic cancer. He has completed eight months of chemo to fight pancreatic cancer. The chemo is no longer effective and his anticipated surgery has been cancelled. He is hoping to be approved for some experimental drug research for gene therapy. Please pray for him and his family that our Lord will bring a miracle in any way he chooses to restore health to our brother. Since his graduation, he has authored six books and is finishing up a seventh one. To keep in touch with his journey, follow his Caring Bridge link.

Brian Hedrick, D.W.S. 2008

Brian recently returned from a 10-day trip to the Holy Land with a choir and orchestra representing three churches from Georgia and Alabama. One of the highlights of the trip was a concert on the southern steps of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, very likely the same steps that Jesus would have used to enter the Temple. This was a rare privilege, requiring the unprecedented approval of both Muslim and Jewish authorities over a year in advance.

Levi Henkel, D.W.S. 2021

Christ Church Mount Pleasant is one of the many Anglican Church of North America congregations in South Carolina that have been in a property battle with The Episcopal Church since we left in 2012. A final verdict was recently published for our particular congregation, and we will hold our last service on our historic 1706 property this August 26th. After that, we have immediate plans for gathered worship on Sundays at a local elementary school. This will require worship renewal as our three distinct service times become one gathering for the foreseeable future in the new space. We deemed this merge wise both pragmatically and pastorally during this transition. During the week our staff will serve from a retail office space, and our previously building-centered ministries will take place in a variety of locations including homes, churches, and public venues. We are beginning to research and consider buying and/or building in the same community. I share this in gratefulness for the many who are praying and caring for our congregation during this time.

Wallace Horton, D.W.S. 2005

Wally was recently interviewed by Cliff Vaughn of Good Faith Media Publishing on the Podcast “Good Faith Reads.” They discussed his book, Windows on Worship: 52 Devotional Readings for Those Who Plan, Lead, and Engage in Worshiping God, published by Webber Institute Books.

Faculty Stories

Dr. Amy Davis Abdallah

Amy Davis Abdallah (DWS 704 Professor)

Amy recently led students on the Footsteps of Paul in Greece for Nyack College and Alliance Theological Seminary. She will spend August enjoying her family and finishing her manuscript for Rituals that Transform, due out in 2023 from Brazos Press.

Constance Cherry (DWS 702 Professor)

Here is what I have been up to in recent months.

  • Taught 10-week online course on Worship Theology for The Worship Academy, Sarang Global Academy in Seoul, South Korea (February-April, 2022)
  • Speaker at “REFOCUS” Worship Conference sponsored by Next Level Worship International. The largest group was from Pakistan. (March 2022)
  • Guest on Worship Quest Podcast with Steven Brooks (D.W.S. 2012) on “Hymns in Christian Worship” (March 2022)
  • Presented an IWS Worship Webinar: “The Worship Architect, 2nd Ed” (April 2022)
  • Guest on Worship Theology Podcast, Dordt University, with Jeremy Perigo (D.W.S. 2013) on “Biblical Foundations & the Shape of Worship” (May 2022)
  • Guest Speaker for Hillsong College class (June 2022)
  • Featured clinician for the Alleluia Conference, Center for Christian Music Studies, Baylor School of Music, where I presented 8 sessions on worship, participated in a panel moderated by Randall Bradley, and met up with IWS alumni including Carolien Eunice Tantra (pictured at right above)
  • Celebrated the release of “Selecting Worship Songs” in Indonesian with the help of Budianto Lim (D.W.S. 2014)

Melody Kuphal (MWS Professor)

Melody Kuphal

The Kuphals have had an exciting 2022! In May we celebrated our son’s graduation from Bradley University just weeks after we moved into our new home. We downsized our house (moving into a ranch) and upgraded our church commute (2 stoplights away instead of 40 stoplights away!) This fall our daughter goes back to Butler University in Indianapolis for her sophomore year as a double major in Psychology and Vocal Jazz performance, and Kevin and I continue to adjust to being empty-nesters. During all of the excitement we still managed to release our 13th album Mighty Promises, songs to accompany Hosanna! Lutheran Church’s VBS.

Commencement 2022: Congratulations Graduates!

The June 26, 2022 Commencement service at Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida was particularly exciting since it was the first in-person graduation service since 2019 due to the pandemic. Graduates from the 2020 and 2021 classes were invited to walk in the ceremony. 31 graduates were honored, 20 from the 2022 class that included 9 M.W.S, 9 D.W.S. and 2 A.G.C.W.S. IWS has conferred 713 degrees to 684 graduates. 29 persons have earned both M.W.S. and D.W.S. degrees.

Dr. Darrell Harris, Dean Emeritus of the Chapel, delivered the Commencement sermon and Dr. Nancy Nethercott, IWS Chaplain, presided at the liturgy. The Commencement service video is available here. Click to view the Commencement bulletin (redacted for copyright).

Click to here view the entire Commencement 2022 Photo Gallery, including pictures of the graduates and the Commencement service. Click on the photos below to see a larger version.

Practicum Story: The Emmanuel Project

During the recent June session, the 703 Practicum class was assigned planning and leading an Alternative Thanksgiving (the response to the word when the Table is not celebrated). One of the groups presented a compelling segment of worship that featured the commissioning of a team of servants who are launching a medical missions outreach in Northeast Florida called the Emmanuel Project. The project is the vision of D.W.S. student Vaughan Robison who shared the story of how it came about. Click the streaming audio below to hear his short, moving testimony. Then continue to read more details of this redemptive story.

Realizing the Borderline Impossible

By Vaughan Robison, D.W.S. Candidate

At the beginning of 2022, my wife and I were fasting for discernment, healing, and to better hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. I determined that I would study every passage about fasting in the Bible, and words in Isaiah 58 stopped me in my tracks. Jesus echoed this theme in Matthew 6.

Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share the food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and to not turn away from your own flesh and blood?

(Isaiah 58:6-7)
Vaughan Robison family

The idea that true fasting was the accomplishing of any of these things seemed borderline impossible. However, knowing God’s authority and the power of His word, I prayed to God that I would meet someone homeless of his choosing. A week later, I met Emmanuel and Emmy and their two children—a homeless family—in the parking lot of a hardware store. My wife and I invited them to our home to share Valentine’s dinner with our family, and it was a great blessing to us. Pediatrician Bonnie White was good enough to come and examine their children the following morning in our home. The Emmanuel Project was born in our kitchen that day. Through this small interaction with one family over a series of months, we realized that God’s children are all around us—hungry, naked, and oppressed.

What is the Emmanuel Project?

The Emmanuel Project is a group of doctors, nurses, and businesspersons who have banded together to bring hope, healing, and medical care to those that cannot access it in Northeast Florida. We are a privately funded, faith-based 501(c)3 nonprofit, and we have just purchased an exam room housed in a 20-foot trailer that can be positioned anywhere there is a need. (Click on the PDF below for pictures.)

Click to see full-size version

In September 2022, we will begin serving a single rural community, Keystone Heights in Clay County, Florida. Keystone Heights has nearly 500 families with over one-third of the population falling under the poverty line. There is no hospital, public transportation, or significant medical services in the area. We will be providing pediatric and primary physician care multiple times per month for the next six months to improve health and education in the community.

God has prepared a path for the Emmanuel Project to care for one forgotten community of God’s people. These people are our “flesh and blood,” and they will be treated as such. While we are caring for physical needs, we will also show Christ’s love and goodness. As a faith-based ministry, we will spread the message of the Gospel through acts of love and good works with the hope that many will be healed physically and spiritually. What once seemed borderline impossible is now happening by the grace of God with us–Emmanuel.

Giving to the Emmanuel Project

Vaughan reports that the budget to operate the mobile medical clinic is $9,000 per month, which primarily covers insurance (the biggest expense) and supplies. The staff are all volunteers. The one-time cost to add a second mobile clinic is $63,120, and an additional $9,000 monthly expense to operate.

If you are inclined to support the Emmanuel Project click here for contact information and a link for donations.

In case you missed recent posts and resources, here are useful and popular links you should be aware of. You’re welcome!

Read the Webber Quote of the Week
About the author

Alumni Director, Practicum Professor, and DWS graduate.