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First Worship and the Arts Symposium will be Nov. 19

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Two renowned scholars and practitioners of the arts in Christian worship will be the major resources for Bethel College’s first Worship and the Arts Symposium.

“Think, Celebrate, Sing” will take place on the Bethel campus Saturday, Nov. 19, and will be centered on the Psalms. Thomas G. Long, a professor of preaching at Emory University, and John Ferguson, a professor of organ and church music and cantor to the student congregation at St. Olaf College, will provide primary input.

The symposium will include plenary and concurrent sessions with the resource people, a “meet the artist” event and an evening hymn festival.

It opens Nov. 19 at 8:30 a.m. with registration in the Fine Arts Center lobby. Daytime sessions take place in Krehbiel Auditorium in the Fine Arts Center, beginning at 9 a.m. There will be presentations by each of the two resource people in the morning. Participants can choose one of two concurrent sessions right after lunch, followed by a final plenary session with both Ferguson and Long.

At 3:30 p.m., symposium participants are invited to the Fine Arts Center Gallery to see “Revelation Images,” an exhibit by Martha Yoder, Parnell, Iowa, and enjoy refreshments. Yoder is a pastor whose art explores the visions and worship scenes in the book of Revelation. “Revelation Images” emerged from Yoder’s collaboration with a pastoral colleague on a series of sermons and mid-week Bible studies.

Yoder will give a presentation on her artwork Sunday afternoon, Nov. 20, at 4 p.m. in Krehbiel Auditorium. A reception for the artist will follow in the Fine Arts Center Gallery area.

Finally, a hymn festival beginning at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Hall will be open to the public. “We Sing of God’s Love” will be an evening of music led by Ferguson with commentary by Long, and including singers and instrumentalists from Bethel College, Bethel College Mennonite Church, First Mennonite Church of Christian in Moundridge and First Mennonite Church, First Presbyterian Church, Grace Hill Mennonite Church and Trinity Heights United Methodist Church, all of Newton.

The Psalms were chosen for Bethel’s first Worship and the Arts Symposium because they have been part of worship for millennia yet still resonate today, said William Eash, professor of music and director of choral activities at Bethel. In the symposium, “we will study the biblical writers as poets and artists, experience the psalm music of the 21st century and worship as a community, centering on these ancient texts,” he added.

John Ferguson is the Elliot and Klara Stockdal Johnson Professor of Organ and Church Music at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., where his responsibilities include directing the church music-organ program, teaching organ and conducting the St. Olaf Cantorei. Each year, he prepares and leads many festivals across the country both for local congregations and professional gatherings.

Ferguson is the author of numerous books and articles on church music and organ building. He has been invited to design and present hymn festivals for national and regional conventions of both the American Guild of Organists and the American Choral Directors Association as well as for many national gatherings of church musicians.

Thomas Long is Bandy Professor of Preaching at Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, as well as a Presbyterian minister who has served churches in Georgia and New Jersey. He has taught preaching for more than 30 years, at Erskine Theological Seminary, Columbia Theological Seminary, Princeton Theological Seminary and, since 2000, at Candler.

He is the author of textbooks on preaching and worship, collections of sermons and biblical commentaries on Matthew and Hebrews. His most recent books are Accompany Them with Singing: The Christian Funeral (Westminster John Knox Press, 2009) and Preaching from Memory to Hope (Westminster John Knox Press, 2009).

“Think, Celebrate, Sing: A Worship and the Arts Symposium” is made possible by the newly established Reimer/Boese Worship and the Arts Endowment and the estates of Clarence J. and Lucille Graber, and Geneva Kaufman.

Rosella Reimer Duerksen, Tucson, Ariz., set up the Worship and the Arts Endowment to celebrate the lives of Katharina Voth Reimer and Thomas U. Reimer, and Maria Schroeder Boese and Abraham L. Boese. The former are Duerksen’s parents and the latter are her birth parents, who died in her infancy.

Duerksen grew up in the Goessel area as part of the Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church congregation. Now retired, she spent a career directing music in churches, organizing music festivals and conducting choirs in Little Rock, Ark., Iowa City and Ann Arbor, Mich., after earning degrees at Bethel College, Westminster Choir College (masters in choral conducting) and Union Theological Seminary, New York (doctorate in music). She currently directs an Episcopal church bell choir and a Catholic church vocal choir in Tucson and develops programs for the Tucson chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

The Reimer/Boese Endowment is intended to assist Bethel College in providing lectures, musical events, workshops or conferences that focus on the arts as tools for communicating the Christian faith. While some events may primarily serve the student body, others will be aimed at the broader community as well.

“Think, Celebrate, Sing” is also receiving support from the Menno Simons Lectures endowment and the Bethel College 125th Anniversary Committee. The former funds four lectures that normally take place annually, during the last weekend in October, but because of the symposium will not this year (they resume in 2012 with Keith Sprunger, professor emeritus of history, presenting on 125 years of Bethel College history).

For a complete symposium schedule or to register online, go to

Bethel College is the only private, liberal arts college in Kansas listed in the 2011-12 analysis of top colleges and universities in the United States and is the highest-ranked Kansas college in the Washington Monthly annual college guide for 2011-12. The four-year liberal arts college is affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. For more information, see

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