Published on August 29, 2023 by Nelson Cowan  
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We are proud to announce the recipients of our inaugural Engaging Worship Program, aimed at fostering academic and practical projects at the intersection of worship and the arts. The program has provided grants to a diverse range of projects that promise to enrich worship experiences, engage communities, and inspire deeper connections between faith and artistic expression.

The following projects have been awarded a combined total of $10,000 in grant funding through the Center for Worship and the Arts, supported by generous funding from Lilly Endowment, Inc.:

David Bains | Worship Architecture: An Ecumenical Introduction Website

David Bains' project will bring to life a captivating website introducing liturgical architecture through examples in metropolitan Birmingham, Alabama. By exploring the interplay of art and environment across various liturgical traditions, this initiative delves into how physical spaces shape the worship experience and promote ecumenical understanding.

Donna Fitch | Making Glory Online Magazine & Community

Donna Fitch's "Making Glory" project seeks to ignite contemplation and discourse through theological, scriptural, and philosophical explorations of visual arts in worship. With a focus on essays and artwork, this online magazine will inspire creativity, foster discussions, and facilitate a vibrant community of worshippers and artists.

Jonathan Den Hartog | Worshipping with More of the Saints Project

Jonathan Den Hartog's resource grid for small groups aims to bridge the gap between church history and modern worship practices. By connecting historical movements in church history with representative documents, expressions of worship, and prayers, this project seeks to broaden understandings of “worship” beyond 21st century understandings and enrich the spiritual formation of congregants. 

Jonathan Rodgers | Choral Commission of "How Can I Keep from Singing?"

Jonathan Rodgers' composition project will resonate with audiences through a new choral setting of the beloved hymn "How Can I Keep from Singing?" Premiering with Samford's University Chorale, this work is set to captivate hearts and potentially find a wider audience through publication.

Anthony Minnema and Bryan Gill | 30-Day Devotional in Partnership with Samford’s Outdoor Adventure Club (SOAC)

Anthony Minnema and Bryan Gill's collaborative effort with the Outdoor Adventure Club (SOAC) aims to blend faith and the outdoors in a 30-day devotional. By engaging students and faculty alike, this project intends to deepen spiritual connections while embracing the beauty of nature.

Robert Elsner | Pilgrimage of the People: Liturgies for Labyrinth Worship throughout the Church Year

Robert Elsner's visionary project focuses on creating accessible liturgies for labyrinth worship experiences, fostering a sense of pilgrimage and prayer. Accompanied by visually stunning paintings, this initiative aims to guide believers in labyrinth liturgies through the church year.

Shayla Carter | "When Worship Leaves the Church” Devotional

Shayla Carter's devotional aims to transcend the confines of the weekly worship gathering, inspiring consistent and heartfelt worship in everyday life. With a heart for diverse worshippers, this project seeks to encourage a more profound connection with the Divine throughout daily routines.

Rachel Hagues and Chuck Stokes | Cultivating Quiet Prayer Project

Rachel Hagues and Chuck Stokes' project envisions a serene prayer garden on Samford's campus, offering a dedicated space for quiet reflection and communion with God. Grant funds will support the planning, construction, and evaluative research of this contemplative haven.

As a Center, we celebrate these initiatives and their commitment to elevating projects on worship and the arts. These projects exemplify our dedication to fostering innovation and creativity within the realm of worship, enriching the lives of both the Samford community and beyond.

Rev. Nelson Cowan, PhD., is the director of the Center for Worship and the Arts at Samford University. Originally from Jacksonville, FL, he has served churches in Washington DC, Massachusetts, and Florida, both as a worship leader and as a senior pastor. Nelson is ordained in The United Methodist Church and teaches as adjunct faculty at Emory University, Drew University, and Wesley Theological Seminary. He is married to Samantha and they have a rambunctious young daughter named Cameron.