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  • Worship & Liturgy: A Conversation with Arthur Vining Davis Foundations

    Worship & Liturgy:
    A Conversation with Arthur Vining Davis Foundations

    This year, the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations have awarded Seattle University's School of Theology and Ministry a three-year grant to enhance the worship and liturgy dimensions of the School's community culture, programs and curriculum.

    We recently sat down with Cheryl Tupper, the Program Director for Religion and 
Health Care at the Foundations, and talked with her about the selection process. Why Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry?

    Cheryl had visited the Seattle University Campus in March 2012, and spent time engaging School of Theology and Ministry faculty, staff and students in conversation as a part of her learning.

    The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations are focused on institutional excellence--evaluating schools in terms of the quality of their educational process, particularly how they are preparing their students for ministry. The Foundations and their teams understand that ministry doesn’t just mean preaching from a pulpit on Sundays. Cheryl and other Program Directors look at where the future leaders of the church are being prepared, and how well-prepared those students are coming out of their education to assume a broader role and more inclusive understanding of ministry.

    Cheryl talks about her impressions of the School upon her visit last March: 

    In looking at Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, we were impressed by how the School is able to respond to and blend this bigger understanding of what ministry is--translating that understanding very effectively. Even though there are students that are there preparing to be traditional ministers, there are also those that are engaging those broader roles of ministry (mental health, nonprofit leadership, media, and more). For example, there are many Roman Catholic students that are female leaders in congregations and in other service settings.

    From its very roots, the School has had a consistent commitment to a theological education that is ecumenical and has even moved beyond that to embrace an interfaith world--preparing students to lead in a pluralistic world both religiously and in social services, mental health, and other vocations. Those commitments are very intentional, not having been added on tangentially, but integrated into the very core of the educational mission.

    I was also very impressed by the passion and dedication of both faculty and students by what each of them bring to leadership. The faculty are passionate about preparing students as well as being good scholars, and many of them being cutting-edge scholars. It was impressive hearing the students talk about learning from each other in a pluralistic / diverse setting—in a learning community with others of different denominations and different faith traditions.

    I could see that since the School is a newer institution, in contrast to some of the older established denominational seminaries, the School has been willing and able to “think out of the box” rather than do things because of how it’s always been done, but to think about what’s needed to prepare pastors in this current context.

     We asked Cheryl about why this particular grant for worship and liturgy was awarded to the School. She shared about the complexities the evaluation team considered in making that choice.

    We saw very clearly that Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry has to approach worship and liturgy much more carefully than a denominational seminary. The School has a distinct need to value the range of traditions present, and to consistently be in the process of learning and experimenting about how it works to share elements of worship and liturgy that are common to the various traditions that are represented at the School, as well as where and how to teach those elements that are particular to specific traditions. We evaluated the School on its overall excellence, and in this grant’s case, Dean Mark Markuly had free range on what the actual purpose of the grant would be directed towards. Dean Markuly, in concert with other School leadership, chose the worship and liturgy as the focal point because they understood that this isn’t something that you put together as a course that people take but is more complex, particularly more than in a denominational seminary where there are not only different styles but different theology.

    We invited the School’s Dean Markuly to come as a special guest at one of the Foundations’ Board of Trustees meetings, on this upcoming February 9th, in Jacksonville, Florida. The Foundations’ trustees are in the process of reviewing its religion programs--determining where funding should be directed and how any value and priority determinations might shift. Dr. Markuly is invited to share his perspectives as a Dean that represents a School that is on the cutting-edge of the future of theological education. We recognize that the Dean has a lot to say about what it looks like for a School to be intentional ecumenical–not becoming ecumenical out of the market or trends—but to be inclusive and diverse at its core.

     Many thanks to Cheryl Tupper for taking the time to speak with us about this exciting award, the project it empowers, and the gracious support of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.

    For more information on Worship & Liturgy at the School, visit the webpage here , or follow the blog here.


    SU STM Worship & Liturgy




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