Western Theological Seminary (WTS) has received a grant of $1.15 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. to support the Center of Disability and Ministry in establishing the Nurturing Children with Disabilities Project.  

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.

Through the Nurturing Children with Disabilities Project, guided by Director of the Center for Disability and Ministry Director Dr. Benjamin Conner, WTS will develop a theology and practices of corporate worship that are inclusive of children with disabilities.   

The program will support specific congregations in this effort and create popular and academic articles and books along with resources for the Center for Disability and Ministry (CDM) that will be available widely.  

“We are excited to learn alongside congregations how to see the world God created through the eyes of children with disabilities as we attend to the ministry of horses, explore nature together, and express our insights through artistic expression,” said Dr. Benjamin Conner, Director of the Center for Disability and Ministry. “As we recover awe and wonder, we will consider how we might join our praises and laments to creation’s ongoing chorus of worship.”

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. 

Western 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 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 founder’s wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education, and religion and maintains a particular commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and its home state, Indiana. The Endowment’s religion grantmaking aims 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.

About Western Theological Seminary

Western Theological Seminary(WTS) is a reformed Christian theological seminary in Holland, Michigan. WTS offers 16 graduate programs online, in residence, in English, and in Spanish, for women and men preparing for faithful Christian ministry.  Home to the Eugene Peterson Center for Christian Imagination and Center for Disability and Ministry, WTS is committed to providing excellent theological education and forming students spiritually. WTS was founded in 1866 when seven of the eight members of Hope College’s inaugural graduating class wished to become ministers and petitioned the RCA to allow them to complete their education in Holland.