Eden Theological Seminary

St. Louis, Missouri

Project Director: Paul Vasile

In response to the challenges of the pandemic, to use the Psalms to explore lament, grief, and resilience by engaging in liturgical arts that tell worshipers' stories, name challenges and losses, and cultivate healing and hope.

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

Responding to the profound displacement, disorientation, grief, and pain experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic, we endeavor to create a space where the Eden Seminary community can experience personal and collective lament, grief, healing, and hope. Over the past year our community worshipped online for the safety and well-being of all. As we regather, we endeavor to care for the well-being of the community by creating space for personal and collective grief work in our worship life. 

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

Can we experience grief as sacred? Often grief and lament are often burdened by language that is negative, but in sharing does grief become sacred?

How can we bless and welcome the voices and experiences of individuals who will be both physically and digitally present? We are developing hybrid learning model for the 2021-22 academic year and will be exploring new ways to shape our experiences of worship together. 

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

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected us all in some way. Because this project invites us to name and creatively respond to the challenges, grief, and trauma we have experienced using models found in the book of Psalms, we believe it has the capacity to open up new spaces for shared conversation and reflection within our community. We especially hope it supports and expands our community’s capacity to listen to, trust, and tenderly hold each others’ stories and experiences. Growing capacity for compassionate listening and solidarity with the pain of others would be a powerful marker of health and vitality in our community. 

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

This Fall our community will regather as a community of both in-person and online learners. One of the creative opportunities we face is developing worship opportunities that welcome and support the full participation of a range of students. It will take imagination and technical resources, as well as time for reflection and necessary adjustments. At the same time, a hybrid model potentially expands the audience able to benefit from the grant, which is a gift. 

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

Having attended a Calvin Grants Event before (Paul Vasile speaking), my hope is to find comradery and support in the cohort of grantees, and to hear how communities adapted to the opportunities and challenges of the past year. I hope there will be resources to encourage and support hybrid (in-person/online) models of worship. And I also look forward to experiencing worship services that model the richness and breadth of the Calvin Institute of Worship’s musical and liturgical vision.