By Toya Richards Hill
A grant received by Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary is enabling the institution to renew its commitment to worship and utilize its chapel in more expanded and diverse ways.
The Seminary was awarded a $20,000 Worship Renewal Grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Grand Rapids, Michigan, with funds provided by Lilly Endowment Inc. and is now on its way to transforming the life of the Frank H. and Fannie W. Caldwell Chapel on campus.
“Our hope is to take chapel life into new directions … to elevate Caldwell Chapel as a more important place in the life of the Seminary,” said the Dr. Claudio Carvalhaes, Assistant Professor of Worship and Preaching at LPTS and Chapel Coordinator.
The goal is to use worship and the Chapel to “expand our understandings of God, of Christian life, of theology,” he said. It is to “make the worship space a central place in learning about how we go about our lives from a Christian perspective.”
Over the life of the grant, which runs from June 2008 to June 2009, worship inside Caldwell Chapel will focus on a myriad of themes and issues. A Chapel Ministers’ Team as well as students, faculty, and staff are also collaborating weekly on the outlines for worship.
Everything from the upcoming elections and human rights to black history, immigration, and Earth Day will be drawn upon for worship, and a range of Seminary and community speakers will help lead.
The look and feel of worship are changing too. Ecumenical resources such as hymnals from around the world and symbols from different cultures are being added, Carvalhaes said. The space also will have “all kinds of vessels, artwork, and fabric.”
Even non-traditional items such as wash boards, clothes lines, and other props are being used during services to help worshippers engage in new ways.
“Worship is life, and you want your worship to be full of life, literally,” said Jeanette Cooper Hicks, a second-year Master of Divinity degree student and a chapel minister.
“I came to Seminary knowing that I wanted to be involved in worship planning,” she said. “I want to make sure for myself that I am thoughtful and mindful about what I put out there.”
Carvalhaes said in a seminary learning environment that utilizes the chapel and worship as tools to help students learn how to lead is essential.
“It’s similar to the idea of a laboratory,” he said. “Chapel is an integral part of our pedagogy for the students.”
Chapel services are held on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, with Friday’s service including the Eucharist. A new addition is the coffee hour, sponsored by Seminary departments and local churches and held before worship on Wednesdays and Thursdays. “We are also going to have two local conferences on what it means to worship God in the Seminary,” Carvalhaes said.
“People are learning and experiencing and growing in various, different ways,” said Josh Robinson, a senior Master of Divinity degree student and the chapel coordinator assistant.
What is occurring “is this opportunity to really stretch ourselves. We have that freedom to explore and experiment with a variety of worship styles here,” he said.