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Belmont Awarded ‘Vital Worship’ Grant

Funding from Lilly Endowment to support examination, practice of diverse worship experiences

Belmont University was recently awarded a $17,000 “Vital Worship” grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship with funding provided by the Lilly Endowment. Submitted by University Minister Heather Daugherty, Professor of Theology Dr. Steve Guthrie and Fellow in Religion Dr. Gideon Park, the grant will support planning chapel worship that is more ethnically and ecclesially diverse while also inspiring a larger conversation among the campus community and partners about the variety of Christian denominations and worship styles.

Daugherty said, “Our project will have a number of different components that will work together to accomplish our goals. Through our efforts we hope to help students and campus personnel plan and participate in worship that is faithful to who we are as a diverse community. At the same time, we want all participants—students, faculty, staff, scholars, pastors, and practitioners—to learn from one another how our worship can both reflect and foster diversity.”

Vital Worship grant panel discussion, Sept. 18, 2018There will be a number of activities as part of the project, including a series of approximately six events that will include a keynote speaker, a panel response, small group discussion and practical next steps for those who plan worship. The first event in this series, a conversation on “Why We Worship?” with Rev. Dr. Constance Cherry, was held Tuesday in the Belmont Ministry Center. A professor of worship at Indiana Wesleyan University and a faculty member for the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies, Dr. Cherry is a published composer, the author of many hymn texts and a frequent speaker, teacher and preacher.

The second speaker in the series will come during Belmont’s Diversity Week celebration. Mark Charles, a Navajo Christian Community Development leader, will speak about how he engages the complexities of American history regarding race, culture and faith in order to help forge a path of healing and biblical reconciliation. His talk will examine what worship looks like when we expand our experience to include people who look or think differently than our typical church community. Information on additional events in the series can be found on the “Cultivating Diversity in Worship” grant website.

In addition to the speaker series, a student cohort of “Vital Worship Scholars” will gather to do an evaluation of Belmont’s current worship life and the denominations/ethnicities in the current study body. The Scholars will engage in research, small group discussions and readings as well as site visits to local churches to speak with the pastor/pastoral staff about the worship life and experience worship in that tradition/setting. By the conclusion of the project, the students will create a proposal for restructuring/re-envisioning campus worship events and experiences in light of what has been learned throughout the year.

The Belmont grant is one of 44 Vital Worship Grants awarded by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship for 2018-2019. These projects have a variety of emphases—visual arts, music, intergenerational relationships, contemplation, movement, and more—but have as a common purpose a desire to both deepen people’s understanding of worship and strengthen practices of public worship and faith formation. Belmont is one of only six colleges to receive a grant this year.

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