Religion in the Arts and Contemporary Culture

Enabled by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, Religion in the Arts and Contemporary Culture (RACC) is forging a partnership between the arts community and The Divinity School at Vanderbilt University. This program is offered at VDS through a concentration or a certificate. Learn more about each below. 

religion arts


The concentration is composed of 4 courses (or 12 credit hours) and explores areas of inquiry including theological aesthetics, the role of art in fulfilling the societal mission of congregations and communities, the role of religion in literature, art's generative role in personal devotion, spiritual practice, and congregational life and identity. Practical courses in writing (creative, non-fiction, and song) are offered regularly and are an important component in the curriculum.

Note: Courses taken to fulfill this concentration can count toward the certificate in Religion in the Arts and Contemporary Culture. 

Details on the Concentration

  • Learning Goals
    • Student will demonstrate creative imagination in at least one of two streams of activity.
      • The translation of theological concepts into images, sounds, movements, novels, plays, or poetry.
      • In scholarship, preaching, worship design, and other modes of expressive theological reflection.
  • Praxis Requirement

    By working with the Field Education faculty to identify a learning context.

    By fulfilling the praxis requirement in one of the following courses:

    Images of Mary in Christian Thought and Practice (Budwey)

    Survey of Christian Congregational Song (Budwey)

    Introduction to Christian Worship (Budwey)

    Songwriting from a Theological Perspective (Perkins) 

    By fulfilling the praxis requirement in another course with permission by Director and professor 

  • Required Course

    5410 Judge  Writing Creatively About Religion

  • Sample Courses
  • Other information
    • Not required to do a project or thesis related to the concentration 
    • Does not appear on official Vanderbilt transcript 
Take a closer look on the Concentration from Director & Professor Stephanie Budwey

Certificate Details:

  • Apply

    To apply, the student submits to the Director:

    • a statement of purpose
    • a proposal for study developed with the Director of the program and the academic advisor. The proposal for study can include work the student has already completed that would be a fit with the goals of the certificate program.
    • Proof of a minimum GPA of 3.0.


    Application can be made at any point during the student's time at VDS, and may be a part of the initial application to admission to Vanderbilt. Final approval for the awarding of the certificate rests jointly with the program director and the faculty of the Divinity School.

  • Certificate Guidelines

    The certificate requires 15 credit hours (five courses), taken as part of the regular load for a student enrolled in either the M.Div or the MTS. The courses used to fulfill these hours should be selected with advice and approval of the program director. They may be comprised of courses that can fulfill other degree requirements or electives. A maximum of three hours may count toward the final project. Four of the five courses may also be counted toward the Religion and the Arts concentration. Students seeking the certificate are required to take Writing Creatively About Religion or another course approved by the director. Students are encouraged to choose courses from those designated on YES as counting toward the certificate. With permission of the director, up to two non-designated courses can count toward the certificate if the professor in question allows the student to direct their individual work toward religion and the arts. Up to two courses may be taken in other Vanderbilt departments or schools (e.g., the Fine Arts Department) with the Director's permission. 

  • Required Course

    5410 Judge Writing Creatively About Religion

  • Final Project

    The final project may overlap with the M.Div. Senior Project or MTS thesis. The project need not be a written paper, but could be a performance, exhibition, or other creative work. Students presenting such creative work as a final project must submit a short paper that connects the project to their academic work and other significant experiences at VDS. Students are advised that creative projects, whether done for academic credit or not, take time to put together. As the design of the final project is subject to the Director's approval, planning should begin before one's final year in the program. 

  • Other information

    Appears on official Vanderbilt transcript 

RACC Like a Prayer Poster
What a Pietà by Samuel L. Dunson, Jr.
What a Pietà by Samuel L. Dunson, Jr.

Explore all Current, Past & Possible Future Courses

  • Current and Future Courses

    See the VDS Portal for current Course Projections and Concentration Descriptions and Projections. 

    DIV XXXX Ancient Near East Literature (Seow)

    DIV XXXX Bible in Western Visual Culture (Marbury)

    DIV 6535 Biblical Poetry (Seow)

    DIV 6767 Cultural Signification and Black Religion (J. Floyd-Thomas)

    DIV 6723 Early Christian Poetry (Michelson)

    DIV 6511 Genesis 1-11 (Seow)

    DIV 6535 Hebrew Poetry in Translation (Seow)

    DIV 7064 Humanity and Technology (Hamman)

    DIV 6715 Images of Mary in Christian Thought and Practice (Budwey)

    DIV 5402 The Incarnational Art of Flannery O'Connor (Judge)

    DIV 6701 Introduction to Christian Worship (Budwey)

    DIV 6730 Jesus in Modern America (Hudnut-Beumler)

    DIV 6534 Job, Literature, Visual Arts (Seow)

    DIV 6536 Judges (Seow)

    DIV 7129 Moral Philosophy of Black Popular Culture (S. and J. Floyd-Thomas)

    DIV 6810 Participation: Ritual Theory and Theology (Morrill)

    DIV 6533 Psalms (Seow)

    DIV 6772 Race, Religion, and Protest Music (J. Floyd-Thomas)

    DIV 6773 Reel Black Faith: Race, Religion and Film (J. Floyd-Thomas)

    DIV 5401 Religious Questions in the Poetry of Emily Dickenson and Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. (Judge)

    DIV 5404 Religious Questions in Albert Camus (Judge)

    DIV 5403 Religious Questions in William Faulkner (Judge)

    DIV 5412 Survey of Congregational Song (Budwey)

    DIV 6859 Theology, Visual Culture, and Media (Armour)

    DIV 7009 Theopoetics (González-Justiniano)

    DIV 6932 Voice, Imagination and Sacred Utterances (Thompson)

    DIV 7133 Womanist Literature as a Resource for Ethics (S. Floyd-Thomas)

    DIV 6933 Womanist Proclamation, Ritual, and the Arts (Thompson)

    DIV 5410 Writing Creatively About Religion (Judge)

  • Past Courses

    DIV 2715 Beauty and Belief: Issues in Theological Aesthetics (Perkins)

    DIV 2568 The Bible and Music (Levine and Rose)

    DIV 3958 Black Religion and Culture Studies (Anderson) 

    DIV 2569 Christianity and American Music in the 20th Century (Perkins)

    DIV 4206 Creativity: A Theological Engagement (Perkins)

    DIV 7079 Faith, Film, and Pastoral Care (B. Miller-McLemore)

    DIV 5310 God, Faith, and Art (Caldwell)

    DIV 5413 Music and Spiritual Formation (Perkins)

    DIV 2558 Pastoral Lives: Novels and Memoirs of Ministry

    DIV 6928 Popular Music and Christian Identity (McClure)

    DIV 5433 Religion and Film (Geller)

    DIV 2505 Religious Autobiography (Judge)

    DIV 5434 Religious Narrative and the Self (Geller)

    DIV XXXX Sacred Song in America (Perkins)

    DIV 5227 Social Transformation as Depicted in Children and Young Adult Literature: Refugees and Immigrants (Caldwell/Neely)

    DIV 256: Songwriting from a Theological Perspective (Perkins)

    DIV XXXX Taking Theology to Film 


Religion in the Arts, Vanderbilt Divinity School

Stephanie Budwey, Th.D., Director

411 21st Avenue South

Nashville, Tennessee 37240-1121