Dr. White Earns Grant for Project on Storytelling and Worship

For Dr. Richelle White, Kuyper Professor of Youth Ministry and Director of Field Practicum and Internships, storytelling plays a big role in both her teaching and her academic work.

This is in large part, she says, because telling our stories is a crucial part of building community and working towards spiritual, physical and collective healing.

“For the last few years especially, I’ve been fascinated with it,” she said.

Storytelling, community and healing are also the central themes of a new research project for which she recently received a grant from the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship.

Over the next year, White, who earned her Ph.D. at Union Presbyterian Seminary, will work with 12 women from various walks of life – Kuyper students and alumni as well as members of Grace for the Nations Church – to create a storytelling lab. 

“It’s an intergenerational group. Our oldest member is 82 and our youngest is 20, with the majority being 50-70. Everybody brings something to the table,” she said.

The group will gather twice a month, once for a virtual writing circle and once for an in-person workshop, to build community and experience healing by exploring and sharing their personal narratives.

“What we’re doing is turning our personal narratives into narratives for worship,” she said. “We’ll use them in two worship services, one in June and one in December, that we will put together.  We’ll incorporate music and liturgical dance as part of that too.”

Through this deep dive into storytelling, White hopes to enhance her professional knowledge while also benefiting her Kuyper students.

“I’m always trying to include more storytelling activities in my teaching. Sometimes it’s me or my students telling the stories, and sometimes we’re engaging with stories from movies or other media,” she said. “I want them to be aware of what stories do and of the power that stories have.”

Enhancing her teaching skills, she says, is at the heart of why she applied for the Calvin grant in the first place. 

“I always like to feed my interests and passions so I can keep things fresh here,” she said.

Though the group only just met for their first in-person workshop, White says she is already seeing the project bear fruit.  

“These were women that had never met each other prior to that day and, by the end of it, they were like best friends. It was just glorious,” she said.

She plans to complete the project by December 2024. 

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