Only Words. But So Much More.

If I asked each alumnus to express in one word, and only one word, what their experience as an IWS student has meant to them, I think we would have a whole lot of words coming from 710 graduates! It would be exciting if we could see all these single words written on a mural. It doesn’t take a paragraph to describe the meaning our school holds to each one of us; it doesn’t take a sentence. It only takes a word. I think we would all get the message each word carries. We would get it, not only because we are familiar with the dictionary meaning of the various words, but more importantly in this case, we would read each word in the context of IWS, our very special community of learners. We would immediately identify with each word. We would see that they are only words, but they are so much more.

A few weeks ago, I awoke to words. Only words. Two words, to be exact: Faithful. Forward. That morning, these very words formed a bridge from sleeping to awakening. They were the first thing that entered my mind on that new day. I began to contemplate their meaning. They were only words, but they seemed to represent so much more. I perceived these words had meaning for our IWS community.

Faithful

God has been faithful in sustaining IWS for twenty-five years of training leaders in worship renewal. Yet God was faithful long before our start year of 1999. God had planted deep in the heart of our founder, Robert Webber, a concern for the disconnect between what he observed so widely in worship services and the biblical, historical, theological moorings needed to situate worship in the stream of Christian worship from Pentecost to the present. Several of us heard Bob speak of this concern, and of the stirrings in his heart to start a graduate school exclusively for worship leaders.

Forward

This is what God is calling us to do as a community. God doesn’t lead backwards though it may seem like it at times. God leads forward. The call of God also uses only words, but they are so much more: Come, Follow, Belong, Lead, Believe, Serve, Sacrifice. We don’t need a paragraph to explain what each word means. We get it because we know the words and we know the context. Alumni, faculty, administrators—we all are finding our way through difficult terrain in a time of transitional leadership. But this we know: God is calling us forward for one and only one reason—caring for the future of an academic ministry that is changing the world one church at a time.

Faithful. Forward. Only words, but so much more.

About the author

The Rev. Dr. Constance Cherry is Acting President of The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies, Professor Emeritus of Worship and Pastoral Ministry, and Affiliate Professor at Wesley Seminary, Indiana Wesleyan University. She is also a founding faculty member of The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies, teaching DWS 702 every term since 2000.

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