Lilly Grant Boosts Theology Institute

by Richard Paige

December 21, 2015

Wabash College has received a grant of $529,681 to establish Scroll: The Wabash Institute of Theology for Youth. It is part of Lilly Endowment Inc.’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative, which seeks to encourage young people to explore theological traditions, ask questions about the moral dimensions of contemporary issues and examine how their faith calls them to lives of service.

Scroll will bring as many as 16 young men (ages 16-17) to campus each summer for an eight-day learning experience designed to both deepen their theological understanding and apply that understanding to social challenges and their future endeavors. The first institute is scheduled for June 2017.

“Through an intensive, holistic experience, Scroll aims to provide theological nourishment, an abiding sustenance that energizes young hearts, minds and souls,” said Jonathan Baer, associate professor of religion and program director for the youth theology institute at Wabash. “Field trips and service opportunities will supplement classroom experiences to create a learning environment where students deepen their understanding and see it applied to their own lives and issues of public importance. I am grateful to Lilly Endowment for its support in establishing this summer institute.”

Drawn from the image of Jesus unfurling the scroll of Isaiah in Luke 4, Scroll aims to open up Scripture and Professor Jonathan Baer directs the Wabash Institute of Theology for Youth.Christian theological traditions to encourage high school students to think deeply, critically and theologically about vital matters in their lives and in the world around them.

“Wabash is 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.”

Veteran faculty in Wabash College’s religion department and experts drawn from Wabash alumni will teach the young men participating in Scroll.  In addition, the program will involve pastors from the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program.  Students will shadow a pastor and discuss in depth what it means to have a calling to ministry.  Wabash’s high school youth theology institute will help train Christian leaders who are equipped to serve their church, communities, and the larger society, Baer said.

Scroll is part of Wabash College’s larger commitment to foster excellence in the teaching of religion and theology nationally and to support pastoral leadership in Indiana.  These efforts include:

  • The Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Religion and Theology, which strengthens teaching in religion and theology in higher education through workshops, grants, consultants, a journal and other resources; and
  • The Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program, which engages Indiana pastors in the early stages of their careers with a rich understanding of public life in Indiana to prepare them for major leadership roles in the future.

Wabash is one of 82 private four-year colleges and universities participating in Lilly Endowment’s High School Youth Theology Institutes initiative. The schools are located in 29 states and the District of Columbia. Although some schools are independent, many reflect the religious heritage of their founding religious traditions. These traditions include Baptist, Brethren, Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Presbyterian and Reformed churches, as well as Catholic, non-denominational, Pentecostal and historic African-American Christian communities.


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