“Creative Callings” Project

Boston University School of Theology (BUSTH) is pleased to announce Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded BUSTH a $1.5 million five-year grant to create an innovation hub to foster creative vocational reflection in congregations today. This hub will focus on the important BUSTH constituency of mainline New England Protestant congregations. BUSTH officials intend to share resulting research with others across the United States.

The grant awarded to BUSTH is one of 13 grants Lilly Endowment is making through Called to Lives of Meaning and Purpose, a $20 million national initiative. The initiative is designed to help US-based organizations as they work with congregations to build new ministries and lift up practices of discernment of vocation in Christian traditions. At BUSTH, the Center for Practical Theology will be the locus of the grant project. We encourage you to visit our project website at www.creativecallingsproject.org.

Our Vision

In a time when people are pulled in so many conflicting directions, congregations and their members often struggle to find meaning and purpose in their lives.  Many people and communities seek the wisdom to know how they are called to live faithfully in their own unique contexts. They may grapple with questions of identity, vocation, and relationships. Congregational leadership might want to provide resources to address these questions, but do not know where to begin.

To this end, the Center for Practical Theology at Boston University School of Theology, the “Creative Callings” project will bring together ordained and lay leaders from congregations and faculty and students from Boston University School of Theology.  The project will facilitate conversation, learning, and creativity through the establishment of innovation hub.

Through webinars, conferences, and other resources, the learning hub will partner with these congregations as they embark on designing new ministries that provide spaces for congregations and their members to think innovatively about calling, vocation, and what it means to live lives of meaning and purpose.

This innovation hub will also provide opportunities for Boston University School of Theology to think innovatively about its own identity as a center for pastoral and scholarly training. As the congregations consider the wisdom that emerges through this project, they will share their learning with us and congregations more broadly, helping shape the curriculum and future pastoral leaders and scholars.

Our Story

The “Creative Callings” project is inspired by the ongoing efforts of the School of Theology, particularly the Center for Practical Theology, to consider the role that calling, or vocation, plays in the lives of individuals and congregations. Such topics have been at the heart of the curriculum at BUSTH for some time. The community welcomes the opportunity for further explorations of the role that calling/vocation plays in the search for meaning and purpose in the lives of faithful church leaders and scholars.

“We are excited to embark on this work as a partnership with congregations. While the language of vocation has deep roots in Christian traditions, contemporary contexts raise new questions about how to creatively imagine, articulate, discern, and embody vocations,” said Dr. Claire Wolfteich, Professor of Practical Theology and Spirituality Studies, and principal investigator and project director for the grant. “Our hope is that the project will have a transformative impact on congregations and communities while also bringing distinctive contributions to scholarship and to the ways in which we help form religious leaders here at BUSTH.”

Innovation Hub

The BUSTH innovation hub will support the launching, testing, and refining of innovative ministries designed to support lives of meaning and purpose. A collaborative effort involving faculty across several disciplines, it will focus on both communal and personal dimensions of calling.

The innovation hub will connect congregations and Boston University School of Theology faculty for mutual learning, support, and accountability over time, with the following objectives:

  1. To foster theological reflection, articulation, contextual exploration, and study of Christian calling within and among congregations, with attention to individual and congregational calling;
  2. To develop effective means of naming the pressing vocational questions, challenges, and aspirations in particular congregational contexts and analyzing those in light of related social, cultural, political, and economic forces/structures;
  3. To create a generative, contemplative, and collaborative space for envisioning new and creative ministries that support vocational discernment and living, individually and communally;
  4. To support the launching, testing, and refining of such ministries and to maximize the learning gained from such initiatives for the benefit of other congregations;
  5. To integrate the work of the innovation hub in faculty research and publications, thereby increasing the practical impact of the work and making a scholarly practical theological contribution to existing literature on vocation, congregational studies, and church renewal;
  6. To inform the teaching and formation of new pastoral leaders and theological educators through curricular innovation and mentoring shaped by the emerging wisdom of the innovation hub.

The resulting research of the innovation hub will be concurrently integrated in BUSTH faculty research and publications, thereby increasing the distribution of the work and making a defined scholarly contribution to existing literature on vocation, spirituality, congregational studies, and church renewal.

Project Leadership Team





Dr. Wanda Stahl


LaRonda Barnes


Audrey Woodhams

Welling Hall



Project email: callings@bu.edu

Project Coordinator: Jennifer Lewis, jllewis@bu.edu

Project Director: Claire Wolfteichcwolftei@bu.edu

Since 1839, Boston University School of Theology has been preparing leaders to do good.

A seminary of the United Methodist Church, Boston University School of Theology is a robustly ecumenical institution that welcomes students from diverse faith traditions who are pursuing a wide range of vocations – parish ministry, conflict transformation, chaplaincy, campus ministry, administration, non-profit management, social work, teaching, justice advocacy, peacemaking, interfaith dialogue, and more. Our world-renowned faculty and strong heritage help students nurture their academic goals and realize any ministry imaginable. For more information, please visit www.bu.edu/sth.

Lilly Endowment Inc. is a national 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 and Co. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion and maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.