The Soundings Project Receives Two-Year Extension from the Lilly Endowment Inc.

February 24, 2023

After five years of faithful work in congregations across Texas, ">The Soundings Project has received a two-year grant extension from Lilly Endowment Inc. Led by Darin Davis, Ph.D., clinical professor of moral philosophy in the Honors Program, and director of the Institute for Faith and Learning (IFL), Soundings will continue to serve as hub of innovation for 12 congregations as they reflect deeply and theologically about the nature of vocation.

The grant-funded initiative is part of a national initiative, Called to Lives of Meaning & Purpose, which has two key aims. First, it seeks to deepen and enrich the lives of Christians by equipping them to discern and live out their callings. Second, it aims to enhance the vitality of congregations by developing new ministry models for inspiring and supporting the Christian callings of their members.

Baylor’s program is one of 13 in the U.S. that were selected by Lilly Endowment Inc. for support. Others include Fuller Theological Seminary, Whitworth University, Louisville Seminary, Samford University, and Boston University. All have negotiated pandemic-related challenges.

"We are elated to receive an additional two years,” Davis said. “We are thrilled about the relationships we have forged with each of the congregations, and we are grateful that Lilly Endowment is allowing us to reclaim some of the time we lost because of the pandemic.”

According to Honors College Dean Douglas Henry, Ph.D., the grants extension speaks to the quality and impact of the program, and also to Baylor’s strong relationship with Lilly Endowment, Inc.

“Baylor University has a long record of collaboration with Lilly Endowment programs. Our mutual commitments to the theological exploration of vocation, together with the warm regard and trust we’ve cultivated through the years, are important. For our latest collaboration, The Soundings Project, Dr. Davis has brought stellar leadership to strengthen congregational life.”

Soundings, which received $1.5 million in funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. in 2018, has worked throughout the first five years of the project to guide congregations of different denominations through varying initiatives that all aim to deepen their biblical and theological understanding of calling.

“It’s been a joy to walk alongside these churches as they develop models and approaches to understanding vocation that are specific to their congregation,” Davis said. “Some of the projects are focused on building a culture of vocational discernment within their own church. Others have more external initiatives that express a congregational calling to be a presence in the world. It’s a mix of inward and outward-facing projects, which has been wonderful to watch.”

As Davis looks back on the first five years of the project and the effects of the pandemic, he is confident that the congregations’ programs will only strengthen during the next two years of Soundings.

“I think these congregations are stronger now than when we started because of what they have been through,” Davis said. “These churches are faithfully working to follow what their God-given callings are, not only individually, but collectively. There is a growing awareness that the whole notion of calling is so central to their mission and should be a guiding force in the way ahead.”

Davis, who has served as the director of IFL since 2008, finds that his work with the Honors College and IFL often overlaps because of the university’s desire and commitment to intertwine faith with learning.

“My work in IFL and my role in the Honors Program are often connected because of the love I have for big ideas and the conviction that Baylor is a place, by virtue of its Christian mission, that can pursue big ideas in a special way,” Davis said. “When I’m teaching, I get to think alongside students about the work I do in IFL every day, which is the development of a culture that integrates faith and learning, and that takes seriously the idea that we best pursue wisdom when we are in friendship with one another.”

To learn more about the good work the Soundings Project is doing throughout Texas, click ">here.