Duke Divinity School Professor Lester Ruth, Ph.D., and several Th.D. students in liturgical studies have received a 2021-22 Vital Worship Teacher-Scholar Grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship for a project on improving teaching through digital resources.

The grant will be used for a project titled “The Contemporary Praise and Worship Research Podcast: Improving Pedagogy through Digital Resourcing.” The project aims to introduce the emerging scholarship on the theology, history, and practice of contemporary praise and worship to worship educators through the production of a podcast and pedagogical resource.

Duke Divinity students on the grant-funded team are fifth-year student Adam Perez, fourth-year students Glenn Stallsmith and Jonathan Ottaway, all three of whom are working on their dissertations, and second-year student Debbie Wong, who is currently involved in coursework.

The group received one of 17 grants the Michigan-based Calvin Institute awarded to teacher-scholars as part of its Vital Worship Grants Program, which recognizes that teacher-scholars in many disciplines have a unique role to play in strengthening and nurturing the life of Christian worshiping communities. The teacher-scholars award recipients will not only engage in disciplines traditionally associated with worship, such as theology and music, but also in others from aesthetics, dance, history, and sociology.

Projects will be on a wide range of subjects including oral communication of parables, arts and trauma healing, ecumenical conversation on baptism, building a pneumatological perspective of the sacraments, creating Byzantine iconography, the state of homiletics in the Catholic church, and the reciprocal relationship between worship and leisure. However, they share a common purpose to both deepen people’s understanding of worship and strengthen practices of public worship and faith formation.

“We’re excited to receive this grant,” said Ruth, a historian of Christian worship. “Receiving it not only advances the study of this global liturgical phenomenon but also places Duke—and these doctoral students—at the center of a growing academic field. We appreciate the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship for its support.”

Ruth's particular interests are in the early church and the last 250 years, especially the history of contemporary praise and worship. He is passionate about enriching the worship life of current congregations, regardless of style.