Lilly Peer Learning Project Experience

Imagine being given tools to energize and engage your congregation. That’s the goal of the “Lilly Peer Learning Project in Worship and Music.” This special offering from CMI begins its second cohort with an initial two-week course, “Music In Christian Worship,” at the Brite Divinity School at the end of June. The program gathers clergy and musician teams, who with a congregational representative and their congregations, commit to a year of learning in worship and music.

Last year’s program included participants from nine churches in Texas and Colorado. As we prepare for the second cohort, we wanted to take a moment to connect with participants from Zion Lutheran Church and School in Dallas who fully committed to the project with special classes and surveys that culminated in a Hymn Festival last June.

“Our congregational project involved my Pastor and me teaching a weekly class on Sunday mornings during the Bible class hour,” said Dr. Sam Eatherton, Minister of Music. “This class addressed the many parts of the Lutheran liturgical service, giving historical and theological background and allowing us to speak, sing, and reflect upon liturgy and hymnody.  “My surprise came in seeing how many people from the congregation attended; obviously a significant number of people were interested in learning more about why we worship the way we do.”

Rev. James Haner was also surprised at the response of the congregation. “We did not have to prove to them initially that this is an important, relevant subject - they were ready for it.

“As a clergy person, I now have an even greater appreciation of the role and expertise of the parish musician. While our congregation already exhibited a high regard for its clergy and musicians, this program reinforced that and made it more explicit. One small example: more people are now staying and listening to the postlude than before the course - understanding that the postlude (even though non-textual) is an intricate element of the worship experience.”

Dr. Eatherton explained that the program did more than enhance his relationship with the congregants. “It gave my pastor and me a chance to interact and connect with the congregation in a way that did not normally happen. And, although it is difficult to quantify such a thing, I felt that it helped our congregants grow in their worship life. The relationship between musician and clergy was strengthened simply by the amount of time we were able to spend together working toward the same goals of worship enhancement.”

Though the Lilly Scholar program applications are closed for the current cohort, the course is open to anyone who wants to attend.

The Brite Divinity School course that kicks off this year’s Lilly Peer Learning Project will be conducted online, June 23 – July 2nd. The deadline to register is May 1st.