Assistant Professor of Theology and Culture Antonio Alonso has been awarded a $16,275 Vital Worship Grant for 2021 by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, one of 17 to be given this year.
Geared toward teacher-scholars in any field doing integrated research that connects worship with other disciplines of study and practice, the grant funds a research project that shows promise to serve worshiping communities by strengthening Christian public worship spaces.
Alonso’s project aims to explore the theological significance of the Second Vatican Council through the prism of the ordinary material objects of Christian worship. “Whether in the transformation of communion hosts, new editions of hymnals, or in the shifting meanings of devotional materials like home altars and holy cards, I plan to tell the story of these objects in a way that opens up the complex theological convictions they express to encourage deeper attentiveness among students, pastors, worship leaders, and scholars to the diverse materials through which we worship God.”
Alonso, who is also Candler’s inaugural director of Catholic Studies, will be on leave from teaching for one year to focus on the project, and ultimately plans to publish a book on his findings. He notes that while his project is deeply rooted in his own Roman Catholic identity, it is not intended to speak solely to that denomination.
“By tending with care to the particularity of the objects of my own tradition, I hope to invite Christians from all denominations to take seriously the objects that shaped them and which they shape,” Alonso says. “This project will emphasize the ways in which the unity of the Christian community is found not in smoothing out immanent differences, but in embracing them for the diverse ways in which God is present through them.”
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will also play a role in his research. “As we continue to live into the present reality of online digital worship, I hope to raise questions about the ways in which even such worship is not immaterial, but simply differently material.”
Since it began in 2000, the Vital Worship Grants Program has now awarded over 900 grants to churches, schools and organizations across North America for projects that generate thoughtfulness and energy for public worship and faith formation at the local, grass-roots level. An advisory board of pastors and teachers from a variety of backgrounds assists in the grant selections, and the program is generously supported by Indianapolis-based Lilly Endowment Inc. Founded in 1937, the Endowment’s major areas of programming are religion, education, and community development. Learn more.