Calvin receives $9 million in two grants from Lilly Foundation
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Calvin recently was named the recipient of two large grants totaling $9 million to fund the study of worship and vocation.
A $7 million grant from the Lilly Endowment Inc. is for a project called "Vibrant Worship, Healthy Congregations: A National, Ecumenical Worship Renewal Initiative." The four-year project (2002-2005) will be run under the direction of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, quickly becoming one of the country's most respected worship resources.
The grant will fund an integrated set of initiatives designed to energize and deepen the practice of Christian worship in congregations throughout North America.
"These programs are designed to function," says John Witvliet, director of the Worship Institute, "as the energizing center of a nationwide network of people working toward theologically informed, congregation-based, grass roots worship renewal. The ultimate goal of these programs is to help congregations experience tangible worship renewal, to experience deeper and richer expressions of Christian community and to be recognized as vibrant and healthy manifestations of the body of Christ."
The grant from the Endowment marks the largest grant ever to Calvin.
Witvliet was understandably elated by the grant and quick to note that the grant is made possible by the work of many strong academic and administrative departments at both Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary.
"It's stunning," he said. "I'm incredibly excited about the opportunities this gift will open up for us. And I'm very aware of the sense of responsibility that comes with a grant like this. We have been entrusted with enormous resources. Now we need to use them well."
A second grant of $2 million will be used to address the question, "How should Christians understand and live out the idea of vocation?" Calvin plans to address this through its new "Educating for Vocation" initiative.
Part of the funding will be devoted to thinking, writing and researching the idea of vocation across the entire Calvin campus. The goal is to provide a well-grounded theological exploration of vocation that is deeply embedded in the thinking and discussion of the Calvin learning community. It will ask basic questions about how we educate students to answer God's call to a life of vision, commitment and service.
"This," says Shirley Roels, academic dean and project team member, "is the classic Christian sense of vocation. It's been at the heart of what Calvin is all about for a long, long time. It's this idea that whatever your life tasks, you do them as a servant of God."
Calvin's brand-new Core Curriculum is all about vocation. In fact, the new Core document asks: "What are the basic domains of the practical world in which we live out our various callings; and what must we know, become, and be able to do if we are to pursue our callings in these domains effectively?"
Through the new Lilly grant Calvin faculty will be able to do funded research and scholarship on questions connected to the idea of lifelong service in God's kingdom.
Already this spring Calvin will hire a director of spiritual leadership development, a full-time person who will be responsible for encouraging and enhancing spiritual development of students on campus.
"Our students picked a Christian college because they want to go deep into the spiritual issues of today," said Shirley Hoogstra, vice president for student life. "They ask the tough questions and they deserve good answers. This new position will allow the college to further develop the out-of-classroom spiritual development of our students."
The other half of the grant will encourage and equip Calvin students for service to the church, giving visibility to ministry needs and providing a range of opportunities to serve and lead the church.
Calvin plans to work with Calvin Theological Seminary on a new youth ministry initiative.
The grant also will help churches address the shortage of ministers. "Almost all denominations have a problem on their hands," says Roels. "Churches are without ministers, while ministers are getting older and younger seminary graduates are not available to take their place. We want to address the problem."
The Jubilee Scholars Program will encourage students investigating futures in ministry. That program will identify students in their junior year and put them into an 18-month track intended to inspire them for church leadership.
Hands-on ministry opportunities for students will also get a boost from a new Worship Apprenticeship Program and a new Internship program.
Finally, Calvin will develop a new Ministry Resource Center, a premier collection of worship and ministry materials designed to support students, seminarians, Calvin staff and faculty, other colleges and worldwide church leaders. The collection will include resources on church ministry, Bible studies, finance and budgeting guides and computers connected to the best on-line ministry resources.
"Currently, our Curriculum Center provides outstanding resources to prospective and current teachers," said Witvliet. "This new center will do the same for everyone involved in congregational and parachurch ministries, including students, seminarians and area church leaders. This will provide the very best resources for students who lead Bible studies in the residence halls as well as students who volunteer in area youth groups and urban ministries."
"All of this," says Roels, "is intended to get young people thinking about their gifts, their call from God and their tasks as citizens of the Kingdom. Calvin was established to train young people for the (Christian Reformed Church) ministry. We now have more than 100 majors, minors and programs.
We want to work to encourage more young people to consider being ordained clergy. But we also want to equip the people in the pews for the work of ministry that needs to take place in all areas of life. We want our graduates to serve in their careers, serve in their communities, local and global, and serve in their churches. This grant will help us train students to do all those things."