Allen Chapel AME Church, 2021

Kalamazoo, Michigan

Project Director: Sarah Horton 

To enrich worship by engaging the arts in order to promote healing and understanding in the midst of social injustices. 

Summarize your grant project and how it will address a need in your worshiping community.

The purpose of our grant project is to enrich community worship by engaging the arts in order to promote healing and understanding in the midst of social injustice. Due to social unrest in our world and local community, a generational gap, and the disconnect between our faith witness and worship as a call to action, we were led to create partnerships with local groups, capture the imagination of our congregation and encourage them to live out the connection between worship and social justice. 

What two questions might you ask about worship in the coming year that will generate theological reflection and shape your project?

Theological reflection is the process by which individuals reflect upon their experiences in light of their faith. It deepens our walk with God, provides discernment, and helps us to respond critically to what's going on around us. However, while singing and preaching the Good News connects us to God, what role if any does art, music and worship play in examining social injustices and living out our faith in the church and community? 

How will your project impact the worship life and habits of the congregation?

First, it will help us explore how justice is a form of worship. Second, it will unify our congregation. This project would invigorate the congregation towards a common goal, and will use the strengths of the congregation to impact and witness to the community. Third, this project would nourish healthy congregational life because it would form stronger bonds with other organizations who are pursuing justice in the community. Specifically for the community we worship in, this project would increase unity, strengthen our bonds with our neighbors, and allow those to be blessed by the testimony of the Black tradition. As we collaborate with other organizations, we can combine our efforts to work for a more stronger beloved community. 

What might be your greatest challenges (or challenging opportunities)?

From my own perspective, challenges are opportunities for growth and learning. While there may be some who have not been exposed to the beautiful tradition of art, music and worship styles in the Black church, this will be a wonderful time for those to learn about how this tradition has not only impacted social justice in America but their own lives here in Kalamazoo. Members and participants will be able to see how their lives have been deeply affected by the local faith activity in this area. 

What do you hope to learn from the Grants Event and other grant recipients?

I hope to learn from other grant recipients their own personal inspiration, motivation, faith journey, and how they see worship as a way to strengthen our faith community. Why is a meaningful worship experience critical for them? What led them to their grant project? How does their project relate to the wider local and national community? More nuanced conversations with recipients would allow us to foster support and even possible future collaboration projects.