The Festival of Faith & Writing is a biennial celebration of literature and belief, both broadly construed. Drawing more than 2,000 people from across the world to Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Festival offers three days of lively lectures, readings, conversations, films, workshops, concerts, plays, and more, all fueled by coffee and good food. It’s a feast for readers, including those who also write.
Rooted in the Christian Reformed belief in common grace, the Festival of Faith & Writing creates space for meaningful discussion and shared discovery among people with different religious beliefs and practices. On the campus of Calvin College, we bring together diverse voices and perspectives in thoughtful reflection on the stories that we shape and that also shape us.
Since our first gathering in 1990, we have been privileged to host hundreds of writers, including Maya Angelou, John Updike, Elie Wiesel, Marilynne Robinson, Zadie Smith, Miroslav Volf, Salman Rushdie, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, George Saunders, Christian Wiman, Jonathan Safran Foer, Tobias Wolff, Nadia Bolz-Weber, Mary Karr, Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Yancey, Anne Lamott, Ann Voskamp, and Michael Chabon. Click here to browse through past programs.
Over the last 28 years, the Festival has grown from an event into a community. The connections made during each Festival—over coffee, during small affinity groups called Festival Circles, at booths in our Exhibit Hall, in lecture halls—play out year round in book clubs and publishing houses, writing desks and reading chairs. Festivalgoers stay connected to each other and the writers they’ve met at the Festival via our bimonthly newsletter, Bookkeeping. And everyone can listen to past Festival presentations via our podcast, Rewrite Radio.
Most recently, the Festival of Faith & Writing has become the flagship initiative of the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing. The CCFW was created in 2016 to build on the rich heritage of the Festival and to expand this conversation around belief and literature into additional educational opportunities for students, deeper community engagement, and sustained scholarship.
The Festival of Faith & Writing grew out of the Calvin College English department’s commitment to drawing its students into conversation about how faith and contemporary literature overlap and intersect, sometimes comfortably and sometimes uneasily. In the months leading up to each Festival, the approximately 50 members of the FFW Student Committee are given opportunities to think about what it means to be faithful readers and writers and gracious hosts. We assign each of them a writer or two whom they will guide around campus during the Festival. The students become experts in their assigned writers by reading and reviewing their work for the rest of the committee. In addition they serve as everything from shuttle drivers to on-stage interviewers to clean-up crew, and are vital to the Festival’s spirit of hospitality.
Festival Planning Committee
Calvin Center for Faith & Writing
Originally hosted by the English department at Calvin College, the Festival of Faith & Writing is now produced by the Calvin Center for Faith & Writing, co-directed by Jennifer L. Holberg and Jane Zwart. Rooted in the English department and bringing together departments and organizations across campus, the CCFW’s mission is to celebrate a Reformed engagement with the written word, championing faithful and intelligent conversation about the intersections of religious belief and literature, both broadly defined.
Hospitality is at the core of the CCFW’s mission to convene conversations between people from the many diverse communities made and served by religious writing. In all its activities, the CCFW endeavors to create spaces wherein people from many faith traditions are welcomed warmly, listened to with respect and generosity, and inspired to deeper engagement with the common good.
Through programs tailored for students of all ages and the general public, the CCFW works to create a larger culture of active, discerning readers. Recent and ongoing projects include a Regional Literary Arts Calendar, a fall writers series on race in America, and the Marginalia series of short films featuring authors on craft and inspiration. Additional information about these and other initiatives—including the Hudson Townsend Publishing Institute—is available at ccfw.calvin.edu.