A three-year, $300,000 grant from the Christ Is Our Salvation (CIOS) Foundation of Waco, Texas, will support a new Center for Worship and the Arts in Samford University’s School of the Arts. According to the CIOS mission statement, "educational institutions that receive distributions from the trust should provide a top-quality education to prepare students for service in their chosen vocation, while at the same time providing significant opportunities for students to grow in their Christian faith.”

“This tremendously generous grant from the CIOS Foundation matches the strengths of Samford music and worship with the needs of the local church,” said School of the Arts dean Joseph Hopkins. “It helps us pair the mentorship of experienced worship leaders with those sensing a call; and it makes Samford a place for serious conversations about how we may all work together to enrich the worship of the church.”

The center will be indirectly related to Samford’s music and worship degree and the minor in worship leadership, created in 2011 and led by faculty member Eric Mathis. Mathis, who also is preparing the strategic plan for the new center, noted that while those existing programs are strongly focused on music, the new center will incorporate all areas of the arts.
Mathis said that as the “language” of worship expands, “worship leaders need to be defined by interdisciplinary studies in worship, preaching, music, theatre, dance, visual art, architecture, and film.” Like the worship leadership program, the center will involve university divisions outside the School of the Arts, including Howard College of Arts and Sciences, Beeson Divinity School and Student Ministries.

“The primary responsibility of the center will be to serve congregations, ministers, and thoughtful lay people in the church interested in exploring the relationship between worship and the arts,” Mathis said. “We hope to create a diverse and hospitable environment where individuals and communities of faith can explore the depths of Christian worship, the bounty of artistic expression, and with the disciplined and purposeful integration of the two.”

Mathis said helping teens explore calling to worship leadership is expected to be a significant focus of the center, as will the production of online resources in worship and the arts for ministers and congregations.

Hopkins said further details of the planned use of the CIOS grant will be announced this spring.

The new grant is not the first for Samford from CIOS. The foundation provided major funding to launch Samford’s Children's Learning Center in 1998.