Hope College has received a major grant from Lilly Endowment, Inc. to establish Awakening, a summer institute designed to deepen high school students’ faith formation and understanding of Christian theology, and to help them explore the moral dimension of contemporary issues and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service.

The program has received a grant of $500,000 through Lilly Endowment’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative.  The Endowment has provided grants to 82 select private four-year colleges and universities around the nation as part of its commitment to identify and cultivate a cadre of theologically minded youth who will become leaders in church and society.  Hope is the only college or university in Michigan to have received support through the initiative.

Hope’s on-going Awakening program will offer an ecumenically diverse group of high school students the opportunity to investigate sacred texts, worship and music.

Students will study Scripture, worship traditions and musical expressions.  In addition, they will engage with Hope faculty, staff and student-mentors, regional clergy and recognized national and international worship leaders, to better understand the complexities of theological pursuit as they discern their own vocations to serve others.

 “Awakening will engage students in the study of Scripture with personal and group dialogue, building personal and community experiences centered on how students can give their lives to a cause that is meaningful and can make a difference across the globe,” said James DeBoer, who is director of Awakening and an adjunct associate professor of music at the college.

Hope College President John C. Knapp noted, “This generous grant from Lilly Endowment supports our ‘Hope for the World: 2025’ strategic plan, building on Hope College’s strength as a place where students encounter the Christian faith and discern their beliefs in a manner that is invitational and winsome.”

The Awakening program reflects the college’s overall mission: “to educate students for lives of leadership and service in a global society through academic and co-curricular programs of recognized excellence in the liberal arts and in the context of the historic Christian faith.”

More information will be available in early 2016, including when registration opens for high school sophomores and juniors for the first Awakening institute taking place during the summer of 2016.

Lilly Endowment has awarded a total of $44.5 million to the 82 colleges and universities which have received grants through the High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative.  The participating institutions are located in 29 states and the District of Columbia.

Although some schools are independent, many reflect the religious heritage of their founding traditions. The traditions include Baptist, Brethren, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian and Reformed churches, as well as Roman Catholic, non-denominational, Pentecostal and historic African-American Christian communities.  Chartered in 1866, Hope is affiliated with the Reformed Church in America.

“These colleges and universities are well-positioned to reach out to high school students in this way,” said Dr. Christopher L. Coble, vice president for religion at the Endowment. “They have outstanding faculty in theology and religion who know how to help young people explore the wisdom of religious traditions and apply these insights to contemporary challenges.”

The High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative builds on previous efforts by the Endowment to encourage young people to explore Christian leadership and service.  In 1998, the Endowment made grants to seminaries to create high school youth theology programs.  In 1999, it began making grants to support private colleges and universities as they strived to cultivate faith and vocation programs for undergraduates.

An additional grant to the Forum for Theological Exploration will establish a program that will bring together leaders of the high school youth theology institutes to foster mutual learning and support.

Lilly Endowment is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family - J.K. Lilly Sr. and sons J.K. Jr. and Eli - through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly & Company.  The Endowment exists to support the causes of religion, education and community development.  Lilly Endowment’s religion grantmaking is designed to deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians.  It does this largely through initiatives to enhance and sustain the quality of ministry in American congregations and parishes.

Previous grant support to Hope by the Endowment includes a program-planning grant in 1999 followed by a $2 million award in November 2002 through the Endowment initiative to support “Programs for the Theological Exploration of Vocation” at colleges and universities.  Through the 2002 award, Hope established the CrossRoads Program, which began in 2003 and through a variety of initiatives encourages students to explore intersections of faith, career, calling and life. Many of the CrossRoads initiatives are now coordinated through the college’s Center for Ministry Studies.