Vital worship grant received from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

by C. Mark Batten, Office of Communications

The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship announced in April that it will fund another 32 worship renewal projects for 2017-2018 as part of its Vital Worship Grants Program.

These projects have a variety of emphases—visual arts, storytelling, music, preaching, contemplation 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.

“These collaborative projects bring people together to study, plan and create, foster new learning and nourish intergenerational community in worship,” said Kathy Smith, director of the Vital Worship Grants Program:

As a recipient, the School of Divinity is among 20 congregations, one high school, four colleges and universities, three seminaries, and five other organizations, including a retirement community, a military ministry, a hospital ministry, a denominational worship committee and a regional synod. Recipients also represent congregations and schools from 18 denominations, 19 states and two Canadian provinces.

Each grant will fund a year-long project (beginning in June) that promotes vital worship and faith formation, and this year’s awards range from $6,000 to $18,000 per project.

The School of Divinity’s project seeks to encourage the concept of worship design as spiritual practice. It will aid local worshipping communities and pastoral leaders who seek to renew their worship experiences by sharing the school’s practice of a collaborative student-centered worship planning process.

“Our hope is that the conversations and actions generated by this project will allow the partnering congregations to renew and adapt their worship planning process to cultivate more expansive and formative encounters with God and fellow congregants in communal worship practices,” said Jill Y. Crainshaw, Blackburn Professor of Worship and Liturgical Theology and Grant Project Director. “Worship can be transformed when communities advocate for theological intentionality and the incorporation of diverse voices and perspectives in worship planning and design.”

John Witvliet, director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (CICW), believes that the 2017 projects will help the Worship Institute in its own work of both the scholarly study of the theology, history and practice of Christian worship and the renewal of worship in worshiping communities across North America and beyond.

“We learn a tremendous amount from these programs,” he said. “From the wisdom demonstrated in designing them and the insights gleaned from implementing and adapting them as they unfold. We look forward to sharing insights from these projects with a larger audience in our future programming over the next several years.”

This June, project directors and representatives of all 32 grants will gather on Calvin’s campus to dialogue not only with CICW staff, but also with the recipients of 2016 grants, who will come to campus to share the results of their year-long projects at a poster session that is open to the public.

“We look forward to learning and worshiping together and watching the new grant recipients learn from the wisdom of those with experience,” said Smith. “The grants event is always an energizing time of conversation and sharing stories!”

Since it began in the year 2000, the Vital Worship Grants Program has now awarded 784 grants to churches, schools and organizations across North America for projects that generate thoughtfulness and energy for public worship and faith formation at the local, grass-roots level. An advisory board of pastors and teachers from a variety of backgrounds assisted in the grant selections, and the program is generously supported by Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. Founded in 1937, the Endowment’s major areas of programming are religion, education, and community development.

For more information on the grants program, including a complete list of this year’s grants recipients, please see

Categories: Grants, News, Worship