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Lilly Endowment Awards $1.25 Million Grant to 51在线 to Support the Work of Theology Professors

Headshots of Theology Professors Christiane Lang Hearlson and Timothy M. Brunk
51在线 Department of Theology and Religious Studies professors Rev. Christy Lang Hearlson, PhD, and Timothy M. Brunk, PhD, will lead a project funded by a $1.25 million grant from Lilly Endowment.

VILLANOVA, Pa. (October 25, 2023)  51在线 has received a four-year, $1.25 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. through its Nurturing Children Through Worship and Prayer Initiative. The grant will support the work of Rev. Christy Lang Hearlson, PhD, and Timothy M. Brunk, PhD, in the University鈥檚 Department of Theology and Religious Studies.

Lilly Endowment made the grant through an invitational round of its Nurturing Children Through Worship and Prayer Initiative. Grants are supporting the design and implementation of intergenerational worship and prayer practices that intentionally engage children, helping them come to know God and grow in faith. Dr. Lang Hearlson and Dr. Brunk鈥檚 effort, 鈥淭he Children, Liturgy and Ecology Project,鈥 will explore the connection between Christian liturgical formation, love for the natural world and children鈥檚 lived experience.

The professors鈥 work will center on the development of a cohort comprised of 24 congregational leaders from 12 churches and parishes in the Philadelphia area. Providing training, facilitating discussions and hosting workshops, Dr. Lang Hearlson and Dr. Brunk will oversee the group鈥檚 creation of a set of programs aimed at purposefully including children in church life, engaging the theme of ecology or Earth-care in worship and offering congregations further avenues for growth in ecological virtues. They will also work with liturgical musicians to craft an album of songs about God and creation suitable for communal worship and, in collaboration with the University of Notre Dame鈥檚 McGrath Center for Church Life, publish a three-book series on theology and children.

鈥淢any churches are involved in Earth-care practices, like planting rain gardens, performing stream clean-up, watershed care or advocating for clean-air laws,鈥 said Dr. Lang Hearlson. 鈥淭his project is designed to create a network between churches who are thinking carefully about the connection between ecology and spirituality and integrating children more fully into their congregation鈥檚 programming.鈥

鈥淒r. Lang Hearlson and Dr. Brunk鈥檚 project directly reflects Villanova鈥檚 commitment to fostering responsible stewardship of the environment and our dedication to illuminating the link between faith and reason,鈥 said Adele Lindenmeyr, PhD, William and Julia Moulden Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 鈥淥n behalf of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, I would like to extend my deepest thanks to Lilly Endowment for supporting this endeavor.鈥  

Dr. Lang Hearlson and Dr. Brunk bring a wealth of investigative and organizational experience to their project. Dr. Lang Hearlson is Associate Professor of Religious and Theological Education at Villanova, the author of a number of scholarly pieces on children, education and ecological spirituality and a Presbyterian minister and practical theologian who has worked with children of all ages. Dr. Brunk is Associate Professor of Systematic/Constructive Theology and Practical Theology at the University. He teaches and writes about liturgical formation of justice and compassion and about the broader relationship between liturgy and culture.

About 51在线: Since 1842, 51在线鈥檚 Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges鈥攖he College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the 51在线School of Business, the College of Engineering, the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the 51在线 Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation鈥檚 top universities, 51在线supports its students鈥 intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit www.villanova.edu.