Phillips Awarded Grant from Lilly Endowment’s Nurturing Children Through Worship and Prayer Initiative

Phillips Theological Seminary has received a grant of $1,236,483 from Lilly Endowment Inc. to help establish the Worshiping with Children: Imaging and Imagining the Presence of God program.

The program is funded through Lilly Endowment’s Nurturing Children Through Worship and Prayer Initiative. The aim of the national initiative is to support faith-based organizations as they help children grow in faith and deepen their relationships with God.

“When I was sent the information about the initiative, I felt excited about putting together a proposal centered on worship and the arts,” said the Rev. Allie Utley, Ph.D. “My hope is that I can equip church leaders in cultivating meaningful and moving sacred spaces through which children can come to know the Holy.”

Utley, who is the Assistant Professor of Liturgy and Practical Theology at Phillips, will be the program’s director. She has an interdisciplinary interest in worship and affect theory and has long intuited that some worship spaces have a “certain energy” and others do not.

The Rev. Dr. Allie Utley is the Assistant Professor of Liturgy and Practical Theology at Phillips.

“It is this energy that appeals to and engages people for whom language, the most dominant element of many worship services, is not always accessible — people with certain cognitive disabilities and young children as examples,” Utley said.

Lilly Endowment is making nearly $32 million in grants through this invitational round of the Nurturing Children initiative. The grants are funding efforts to help organizations develop new and/or enhance existing programs that support congregations as they design worship services and prayer practices that more intentionally and fully engage children.

Phillips Theological Seminary is one of 26 organizations taking part in the initiative. They represent and serve congregations in a broad spectrum of Christian traditions, including mainline Protestant, evangelical, Catholic, Pentecostal, Black church, Hispanic and Asian traditions. Many organizations also serve churches that describe themselves as nondenominational, ecumenical and multi-denominational.

Lilly Endowment launched the Nurturing Children initiative in 2022 as part of its commitment to support efforts that strengthen the religious education and formation of children and enhance the vitality of Christian congregations.

About Lilly Endowment Inc

Lilly Endowment Inc. is a private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly Sr. and his sons Eli and J.K. Jr. through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana. The principal aim of the Endowment’s religion grantmaking is to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians in the United States, primarily by seeking out and supporting efforts that enhance the vitality of congregations and strengthen the pastoral and lay leadership of Christian communities. The Endowment also seeks to improve public understanding of diverse religious traditions by supporting fair and accurate portrayals of the role religion plays in the United States and across the globe.