Professor awarded grant to support ethnographic research in today’s African American church

May 26, 2020

The Calvin Institute of Christian Worship has awarded Baylor University’s Dr. Stephanie Boddie a grant of nearly $18,000 to support ethnographic study of ways to create worship practices that integrate traditional theology, Negro Spirituals, storytelling and social history.

Amid increasing racial tensions and a decline in church attendance by millennials, Boddie’s research project focuses on establishing worship practices that help African American churches reconnect spirituality with the social justice legacy of the African American Church. The research will also examine how corporate worship practices, coupled with individual spirituality, creates transformative church experiences and communities.

The project, titled “Singing History: Reclaiming Spirituals and the Beloved Community,” will be headed by Boddie, a thought leader in congregation-based social services and social welfare research. Boddie is a Baylor University assistant professor of Church and Community Ministries with affiliations at the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work (GSSW), the George W. Truett Theological Seminary and the School of Education.

“As Pew Research shows, Black millennials remain the most spiritual among their peers. This grant will target ways Black churches can establish innovative worship practices for millennials to experience church in ways that connect their daily lives to their shared history,” Boddie said. “I hope to discover ways African American millennials can reclaim traditional Negro Spirituals and practices of the Black church to bolster Black churches’ effort to bring the energy of the 1960s Civil Rights movement to today’s pursuits of social change.”

“Examining spiritual beliefs and practices in light of social justice is a tremendous opportunity,” GSSW Dean Jon Singletary, PhD, said. “We’re thrilled to have the funds available to make this work possible.”