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2011 Seminars

Congregations and Social Change:
Adaptation and Innovation among Religious Communities
June 27 - July 22, 2011

Directed by Dr. Gerardo Marti (Davidson College)

Funding provided by the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship

Seminar Description

This research seminar will closely examine the ongoing relationships between congregations and processes of broad ranging, societal change. By incorporating a historical sensitivity and scholarship rooted in a sociological perspective, the seminar will continually connect societal arrangements with adaptation, reaction, innovation, and experimentation in congregational beliefs and practices. The focus will be on congregations of all types (whether church, synagogue, temple, or mosque) and encourages a look at both interpersonal dynamics (beliefs, micro-exchanges, small group interaction, etc.) as well as more macro-level phenomena (globalization, technological shifts, political systems, etc.).

The analytical perspectives on congregations can include --
· singular case studies, particular historical periods,
· whole denominational networks (Mormon wards, eastern orthodox churches, Jewish synagogues, mosques and Islamic centers as well as Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Zoroastrian and other religious temples and missions),
· types of congregations (small, rural, independent, mega, etc.),
· regional centers (Southern California, Manhattan, Chicago Metro), and
· any other appropriate and manageable arena of analysis.

The seminar also welcomes any aspect of congregational life that can be examined in relation to social change, for example,
· changes or comparisons of liturgical design,
· formation and negotiation of political identity,
· mobilization tied to extra-congregational organizations or social movements,
· creation of age-targeted ministry (twenty-somethings to retirees),
· incorporation of creative arts,
· negotiated relationships between religious and civic service structures or public agencies,
· adoption of online social networking or use of new media and technology,
· management of multiethnic/multiracial dynamics,
· etc, etc.

Seminar participants will read sociological and historical literature, engage ethnographic methodology commonly employed in contemporary research, and discuss their own work toward creating a community of scholarship oriented around common concerns. Ideally, each participant will produce a polished piece of writing as a result of the seminar, eg., completing a conference paper, journal article, dissertation chapter, book chapter, or publishable mass-media article. As participants work on their own congregations and social change research during the seminar, they will receive guided feedback in a supportive environment.

About the Director

Gerardo Marti is L. Richardson King Associate Professor of Sociology at Davidson College. An obsessive reader and lifelong learner, Marti is author of three books: A Mosaic of Believers: Diversity and Innovation in a Multiethnic Church (Indiana University Press, 2009), Hollywood Faith: Holiness, Prosperity, and Ambition in a Los Angeles Church (Rutgers University Press, 2008), and Worship across the Racial Divide: Notions of Race and the Practice of Religious Music in Multiracial Churches (Oxford University Press, under contract). His current research projects include political identity formation in evangelical congregations, theological and congregational developments within the Emerging Church Movement, and the rise of innovation-centered networks among Protestant church leaders.

Guest Speakers

Penny Edgell is professor of sociology, and a member of the Religious Studies steering committee at the University of Minnesota. Edgell received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1995, and came to the University of Minnesota in 2002. Dr. Edgell is beginning a new research project on how religious, scientific, and legal frameworks intersect to shape how people understand contemporary social issues. Her work on the National Survey of Religion and Family Life focuses on the support that religious communities and networks provide for managing work and family life across different racial and socio-economic contexts. Her publications on these issues are numerous, including a recent chapter for The Oxford Handbook of the Sociology of Religion and the books Religion and Family in a Changing Society and Congregations in Conflict: Cultural Models of Local Religious Life.

William McKinney is President Emeritus for the Pacific School of Religion. An ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and a sociologist of religion, McKinney was born in Massachusetts and earned his BA from Colby College in Maine, his Master of Divinity and Master of Arts degrees from Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, and his PhD from Penn State. He served as dean at Hartford Seminary for 11 years before becoming president of the Pacific School or Religion in 1996. McKinney is the author of American Mainline Religion: Its Changing Shape and Future (1987), The Responsibility People (1994), and Studying Congregations (1998).

James K. Wellman, Jr. is Associate Professor and Chair of Comparative Religion at the University of Washington. He teaches American religious culture, history, and politics. He is author of numerous books, including the award-winning The Gold Coast Church and the Ghetto: Christ and Culture in Mainline Protestantism (University of Illinois Press, 1999) and most recently Evangelical vs. Liberal: The Clash of Christian Cultures in the Pacific Northwest (Oxford University Press, 2008), which received Honorable Mention for the 2009 SSSR Distinguished Book Award. His present project is a book exploring the spiritual and emotional ethos of American megachurches, Getting High on God: Charisma, Ecstasy, and Power in American Megachurches.

Application Information

Applicant Information, including who may apply and how to apply can be found here. The application deadline was January 14, 2011. We are no longer accepting applications.

2011 Seminars Index

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