Skip to Navigation | Skip to Content

Faculty: Roman Williams

Mark MulderRoman Williams, Assistant Professor, Sociology

Office: Spoelhof Center 237

Weekly Schedule
(Portal login required)

Personal Website

Educational Background

  • BS Messiah College
  • MDiv Columbia International University
  • ThM Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
  • PhD Boston University

Teaching Interests

My favorite courses to teach are introductory sociology (SOC 151) and the sociology of religion (SOC 311). Other areas of teaching interest include visual research methods, cultural sociology, globalization, and global Christianity.


I have recently published Seeing Religion: Toward a Visual Sociology of Religion (May 2015, Routledge). This edited volume advances a conversation between visual sociology and the sociology of religion in which authors present original research findings, explain visual research techniques, and engage methodological issues. Likewise, questions of reflexivity, research ethics, and engaged scholarship run throughout the book and receive chapter-length treatment. Seeing Religion is the first book-length treatment of visual research methods in the sociology of religion. More information is available at

I was awarded a Congregational Studies Visual Methods Fellowship ( to develop ways visual research techniques may be used to study and engage congregations. Specifically, this 18-month (July 2014-December 2015) fellowship involves three small-scale studies:

(1) Congregational Self-Portraits. I will field test an exercise that uses participant-produced photographs to visually document and generate conversations within congregations and their neighborhoods. 8-10 participants at two research sites will generate a congregational self-portrait, which will take the form of a photo essay or a short video montage that employs participants’ images and narratives to tell the congregation’s story.

(2) Empowering Congregations through Photovoice. I will explore ways the technique known as photovoice can empower congregations and their communities to voice their concerns, challenges, hopes, and triumphs. Two congregations and 10-15 participants at each research site will test and refine the method. Participants will display their photos in a public setting (e.g., the participating congregation). A gallery-like opening will include participants briefly discussing their images; titles and brief descriptions near each photograph will orient subsequent viewers to the story of each image. 

(3) Evaluating Change through Photo Elicitation Interviews. I will develop ways to use photo elicitation—participant-produced images used as prompts in interviews—to evaluate congregation-based social change and renewal programs. Field test the methodology by evaluating a program at one congregation.

Several articles on the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship website discuss my engaged scholarship:

"Roman Williams on Peeling Back Layers of Meaning in Church Life"

"Visualizing Worship: Sparking Conversations about Worship and Life"

"How to Use Photos to Spark Worship Conversations"

Selected Publications

Williams, Roman R., ed. 2015. Seeing Religion: Toward a Visual Sociology of Religion. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Williams, Roman R. and Kyle Whitehouse. 2014. "Photo Elicitation and the Visual Sociology of Religion." Review of Religious Research DOI: 10.1007/s13644-014-0199-5.

Williams, Roman R. 2013. “Constructing a Calling: The Case of Evangelical Christian International Students in the United States.” Sociology of Religion 74(2):254-280.

Ammerman, Nancy T. and Roman R. Williams. 2012. “Speaking of Methods: Eliciting Religious Narratives through Interviews, Photos, and Oral Diaries.” Pp. 129–146 in Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion, Volume 3: New Methods in the Sociology of Religion. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.
Williams, Roman R. 2012. “An Invitation to Sociology.” Pp. 259–277 in Faith and Learning: A Handbook for Christian Higher Education, edited by David S. Dockery. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing.

Williams, Roman R. 2012. “Missionaries.” In The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Globalization, edited by George Ritzer. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.     

Williams, Roman R. 2010. “Space for God: Lived Religion at Work, Home, and Play.” Sociology of Religion 71(3):257-279.