Will there be a new grant cycle?
At this time we don't have confirmation of a new grant cycle but we are gathering information and will post anything that we discover on this site. We are also looking out for complimentary opportunities that may be out there so please check back with us often.
What is the “Scientists in Congregations" grant?
S.in.C is a grant program funded by the John Templeton Foundation to provide congregations with the resources to collaborate with scientists and science educators in the development of a deeper engagement between science and faith. Many congregations have in their midst science professionals who have, in practice, integrated their love and knowledge of science with the love knowledge of God. However, these individuals are rarely recognized or called upon to resource a congregation’s efforts to grow a congregation’s capacity to integrate science and faith. Through this program, we intend to make up to forty grants from $10,000 up to $30,000 to Christian congregations throughout North America.
What is the award amount?
The Scientists in Congregations initiative will awarding up to forty grants of up to $30,000 per grant.
Who is eligible to apply?
The Science in Congregations
program solicits proposals from local congregations in the United States and Canada (Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or non-denominational, from across the theological spectrum, of all sizes) who are committed to growing their capacity for a sustained, rich, generative engagement between science and faith.
Central to any successful proposal will be a pastoral leader and a science-related professional who are highly motivated to collaborate in this effort. The latter could be a scientist, a philosopher of science, or an historian of science at a local college or university, a scientists working in industry, or a Secondary School science teacher who holds at least an undergraduate degree in a natural science. The science professional must be an active participant in the life of the congregation with an existing interest and capacity for this kind of an undertaking. Participants are not expected to be world-class scientists, or even experts in science and religion, but do need an understanding of what science is, how it works and an ability to engage and evaluate the kind of popular science literature most fellow congregants use, often uncritically, to learn of the subject. Also, a background interest in science-religion interaction is important, as demonstrated by a well-thought-out proposal.
Other things to keep in mind:
- Because we would like, in time, to foster a deep and lasting change in how Christian communities relate to the sciences and other solid intellectual developments, and because we can offer grants to only a very small fraction of the churches in the US and Canada, we are especially interested in ideas that could be taken up by other congregations without the benefit of grant support for the planning. For the same reason we are interested in a wide range of ideas which are potentially valuable for large or small congregations, rural or urban groups, for churches in university towns and for those with very few scientists among them.
- An official member of the pastoral staff is preferred. In instances where a project plan is particularly compelling, we will also consider individual cases where the theological / pastoral part of the team is represented by a theologically and biblically literate congregation member with a substantial record of lay leadership in the congregation. But please recognize that this is not the preferred approach. To help ensure that programs can be implemented smoothly, such applications must be accompanied by a letter from the head pastor expressing enthusiastic support for the plans. In instances where a member of the pastoral staff has scientific training we still request that proposals be submitted by a team of at least two individuals; in this case the second person could either be a scientist in the congregation or a second member of the pastoral staff.
What is the purpose of “Scientists in Congregations”?
The Science in Congregations initiative calls for a sustained, creative collaboration between practitioners in the fields of science (scientists or science educators) and theology / faith practice (pastors) who are already engaged with one another through shared participation in the life of a congregation. The purposes of this effort include the following:
To identify existing resources of congregations and to catalyze conditions for a sustained, rich, generative engagement between science and faith.
When pastors and other congregational leaders set out to generate a deeper engagement between science and faith in the lives of their congregations, the impulse is to reach beyond to tap the expertise that resides beyond the life of their congregation. This initiative is intended to focus attention on the potential resources that are intrinsic to the life of congregations—specifically, scientists and science educators who are active participants in the life of the congregation. While not all congregations have these science related professionals in their midst, many do. But to our knowledge, there are precious few congregations who have recognized and drawn upon the insight they often possess from a lifetime of holding together their love and knowledge of science and of God. Indeed, many of these science professionals themselves may not recognize the wisdom they possess because they are rarely if ever called upon to articulate it. When there is such a science professional, a pastor who recognizes the importance of the engagement between these two worlds, and a congregation with a readiness to grow their encounter with science and faith, this program will serve as a powerful catalyst to draw these elements into a creative collaboration that could have a sustained impact in the life of a congregation. This more internally grounded strategy also enhances the likelihood of a cultural shift in a congregation that will be sustained over time in a way that one-off events and conferences, however good the outside speakers, do not.
To provide pastors with the means to call scientists into a sustained collaboration that would enrich a scientist’s engagement with theology and a theologian’s engagement with science, and their shared participation in congregational life and leadership.
Many pastors are highly motivated to cultivate a deeper engagement with science in the life of their congregations but feel woefully unprepared to do so—and lack the time necessary to grow their expertise in this area. Many science-related professionals would welcome the challenge of contributing to a more robust integration of faith and science in their congregations, but are rarely called upon to do so and, if and when they are, often feel theologically unprepared. This program provides the context for pastors and science related professionals to enter into a mutually enriching collaboration that would overflow to the benefit of the congregation.
To develop a range of locally grown models of how congregations can draw deeply from the well of their own congregational life to become communities where the life of science and the life of faith are experienced as spiritually enriching and intellectually stimulating, and to find ways of encouraging a multiplying number of other congregations to also implement, and improve on these models.
While it is not uncommon to find among pastors a high level of interest in growing a more vigorous engagement between science and faith in the lives of their congregations, it has been difficult to provide them with a range of models of how individual congregations have actually done it and qualitative change they have experienced. For many, it is not even entirely clear what it would mean, or for that matter how it would enrich congregational life. The intent of this program is to raise up several models of how this impulse has been translated into a course of action that have measurable and enduring results. The models will be communicated as narratives and will provide concrete resources that can be translated into the lives of congregations across a wide spectrum. The intention of this program is thus twofold, first to support congregationally based efforts to develop and test models, and second to take the most workable and transformative of these efforts as examples that can be taken up by hundreds of other congregations who, with concrete program ideas to hand, do not need program development grants to get started.
To mediate into congregational life many of the existing resources, as well as those now under development, that are intended to cultivate a generative encounter between science and faith in the life of congregations. (More—click here)
The field of science and religion has developed in extraordinary ways over the past thirty years, generating a rich body of scholarly literature on the relations between the sciences and theology. These resources will be directly relevant to the congregational initiatives that will be developed in this program. But surprisingly little work has been done to either popularize these scholarly ideas and findings, or to explore their relevance for personal spiritual development or congregational life. It is anticipated that this program will, in the course of its implementation, result in a whole new range of resources especially relevant to congregational life.
It is important to note that in supporting this program, the John Templeton Foundation is interested in a rich, productive and forward looking engagement between science and theology. Approaches that deny large areas of well-documented science (as among the creation-science community, and, to a lesser extent, the Intelligent Design movement) do not fit this criterion, nor would, of course, approaches which deny the importance of faith and theology (as among the new atheists or to a lesser extent, the religious naturalist movement). In addition projects concerned primarily with ethics will not fit because, important though they are, and while ethical discussions sometimes touch on or even use science, they are not themselves either science or theology.
To help overcome the wider social issues which grow out of the troubling ways in which religious communities relate to science.
Sir John Templeton saw humility theology, one of the core activities of his Foundations, as, in part, rescuing religions from irrelevance and helping religious leaders become humble and open to learning more about God and the world in much the same way as the sciences humbly explore the physical world around us. This program is meant to help churches avoid either unnecessarily watering down their message on the one hand, or unnecessarily dismissing large areas of well-documented science on the other, out of a sense that faith is somehow incompatible with science.
But it goes well beyond just avoiding these all-too-common negative responses to new discoveries or to science generally. Projects supported by this program have the potential to catalyze a new willingness on the part of Christian communities to engage with the intellectual side of our culture. In time this could help break down the current separation of faith from thought. To put it perhaps a little starkly, we have allowed our institutions to mirror the faith-thought division in modern life – seeing universities as being just for intellectual life, and churches for spiritual life. We then turn around and wonder why the academic world so often seems soulless, and why very learned people have trouble knowing how best to use their knowledge. And we wonder as well why the Christian faith seems to make so little contribution to the thought lives of Christians themselves, and even less to the wider intellectual life of Western Culture. In time, the projects initiated by this program could expand our sense of the importance of religious community for all aspects of our lives by exploring the relevance of the sciences for religious communities.
What kinds of projects does “Scientists in Congregations” have in view?
Many possible projects are eligible. The following is simply one set of ideas and is not meant to constrain your creativity. In fact, we welcome your creative alternatives.
All projects will need to provide a way for a scientist, philosopher of science, or historian of science at a local college or university or science teacher (hereafter "science educator”) to be available to assume a level of involvement in the life of a congregation that would otherwise not be possible. For some, this might mean arranging for a course reduction or some alternative plan for release time from his or her institution. The amount of time will vary according to circumstances and the activities envisioned in the proposal. Potential activities include the following:
- Pastor and Scientist chart out a course of mutual exploration of one another’s field of expertise. Others from the congregation may or may not be incorporated into this exploration of theology and science. This should include a plan for impact – for example, the scientist or a small group might be willing to advise in sermon preparation.
- Plan of a series of seminars or conferences that will explore themes and topics relative to the interaction of science and faith and their significance for the church. These would be congregation-based, rather than being primarily for a nearby academic community, but of course they could also be used for outreach to the community.
- Develop and or teach an adult education course (or series of courses) that could become a part of the congregation’s curriculum and thus be repeated and improved over time.
- Design a series of worship services that could take place periodically over several months (sermons, litanies, hymns, theme, etc.) that bring to the foreground the way in which a scientific reading of the world amplifies one’s understanding of God and faith.
- Develop a library of up-to-date books, articles, audio-visual resources. This could be a library that occupies a space in the church building, or it may be entirely web based. A plan for impact, how it will be used in the near and longer term and the difference it would make for the congregation is, of course, needed.
- Develop materials on the relationship between science and faith that could be incorporated into a confirmation class for youth.
Again, these ideas are intended to spark imagination not constrain it. We anticipate that applicants will bring forth a interesting and creative array of activities and outcomes we could not possible envision. What is most important is the potential for wide-ranging impact, and the possibility of the program’s activities leading to enduring change.
Are there any science and religion themes that will not be eligible for funding?
Questions concerning ethics, including medical ethics and environmental stewardship, as well as approaches that are primarily historical (without clear relevance for the current situation) or which deny large areas of well-documented science or diminish religion and theology are not eligible.
What are the characteristics of Proposals most likely to be funded?
The following is a list of the primary criteria of merit by which the judges will assess each proposal:
- Congregational Ownership. The proposal needs to demonstrate a resonance with the interests and capacities of the congregation to take on this kind of an effort. Is the congregation fully supportive of the commitment of time and energy the pastor will need to make if the project is to succeed? Is there a readiness to incorporate the participation of a scientist into the leadership of the congregation?
- Intellectual quality. It is not assumed that the key personnel in the proposal already possess a high level of knowledge of the science and religion dialogue. The proposal, however, will need to demonstrate a commitment to intellectual quality: at least some knowledge of key themes and topics along with an awareness of the leading figures in science and religion. Conversely, avoidance of flakiness or perspectives that fail to give due regard either to pertinent and widely accepted science on the one hand or solid theology on the other.
- Key Personnel. Are the key people involved in the program uniquely invested in the project? Is there promise of meaningful, sustained, and productive collaboration between them? While a range of other individuals will be critical to the project’s success, the proposal will need to demonstrate the potential for a creative, collaborative, and productive partnership between the key personnel.
- Clarity about the "target market” and its needs. It is assumed that the target audience of this proposal will be an actual congregation or some important part of it (young adults, or Christian education, or small groups, say). It will be important to describe the congregation in view, and how the proposed project will fit the make up and character of the congregation. As important as the project’s fit with the pastor and scientist is, it is of equal importance that the proposal demonstrates the fit between the project as a whole and the particularities of the congregation. Reviewers will give serious attention to the program’s strategy in the sense of whether the actual plan represents a viable means of achieving high impact with the group it is meant to reach.
- Likelihood of continuing beyond the life of the grant itself. Can the activities outlined in the proposal become self-sustaining, if not during the course of the grant itself, at least without an enduring dependency on grant funds? While it may not be practical or necessary for the actual project activities to continue, it is important (as elaborated in the next bullet point) that there be a great potential for some real and concrete enduring change in how the congregation engages science and intellectual life broadly.
- Promise of producing a genuine and lasting benefit. Will this program make a genuine difference for those who participate or is it more likely to be an interesting experience that however intellectually solid and professionally carried out, too easily gets lost in our busy world? More broadly, does the strategy consider impact on church life in your city, region or denomination generally and not just on the individual congregation in view?
- Creative and effective evaluation plan. Is there an evaluation plan that promises to get at the heart of program effectiveness without being administratively burdensome? This need not be elaborate, but it does call for being sufficiently concrete and specific about what will be accomplished so as to make evaluation possible. What will success look like and how will you know if you have accomplished your goals?
Can you give some examples of what grant money could be used for?
Acceptable use of grant funds can include the following:
- Stipends, course releases, and other modes of compensation for science-related professional, as well as for special resource persons who may be brought in for consultation or to deliver a presentation.
- Website development and maintenance expenses.
- Costs for continuing education events for key personnel.
- A range of direct costs for the program itself, which will vary considerably from program to program. However, the John Templeton Foundation does not support costs for building, renovation, endowment or tuition and fees toward achieving an academic degree. (NB: However, programs which include subsidies for participants in trial programs may nevertheless offer certificates of achievement.)
- Indirect costs for the host institution in recognition of expenses incurred which are not easily quantifiable for the direct cost budget (eg photocopying materials for program participants).
If your project-related support needs are not listed here, please contact the program office for advice.
What is the application process?
We have designed the application process to be straightforward and not unnecessarily cumbersome. All the details of the grant can be found in the proposal. Below is a simple outline:
Please refer to our RFP
- Proposal Application deadline for the Science and Congregations Initiative, July 1st, 2011.
- Completed proposals must be sent via email—we will not accept hard copy documentation.
- Awards will be announced by August 15, 2011.