Culture and Christianity

Embodied Spiritual Practices for Brown and Black Bodies Exploring Sabbath Rest

Author
April Rae Gutierrez
Abstract
“Embodied Spiritual Practices for Brown and Black Bodies Exploring Sabbath Rest” addresses spiritual formation, discussing an approach to Sabbath Rest for healing and restoration that is countercultural on personal and societal levels. Through a retreat, participants engaged in embodied spiritual practices that promote rest as a tool for spiritual formation and transformation that is rooted in decolonizing theology and spiritual practices. Working in collaboration with The Board of Young Peoples Ministry and the Hispanic /Latino Ministry of the Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church, the retreat model was reviewed by the committees for use in the work of spiritual formation for Black and Latinx Young Adults. The implementation of this project and retreat shows that culturally relevant spiritual practices that honor Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) stories and spiritual practices may deepen the encounter with God and relationships with participants within the retreat setting.

Asian Immigrant Women Building Spiritual Resilience Amidst Cultural Loss

Author
Eugenia Wei-Kuen Lai D.Min.
Abstract
In Asian cultural contexts, women's voices are often neglected, unnoticed, or actively suppressed in church and society. This thesis-project aims to examine the relationship between the spiritual well-being and the praxes of resilience engaged in by Asian immigrant women to the United States in the context of cultural loss. The interview outcome revealed the praxes of spiritual resilience of Asian immigrant women through their integration of faith and culture. Spiritual resilience is an ongoing living praxis that calls men and women to their prophetic calling in building up the kingdom of God, in whom Jesus is the Triumphant Living Praxis.

Comparison of Luther and Calvin on Sunday observance

Author
Harry Buis
Abstract
How should a Christian sanctify the Lord's Day? What principles should direct him in making use of this day according to the will of God? This problem has become increasingly perplexing in our nation today. It is a problem which is especially acute for many people in the Reformed Church in America. Many of these people came from a background of strict Sunday observance. Is this observance primarily cultural or is it biblical? If it is a combination of the two, on what basis can one untangle these
strands?

This problem is especially critical because today, as never before, the Reformed Church in America is reaching out into the typical American community with an evangelistic approach. As she does so, she must not lose her rich heritage; rather she must share it. On the other hand, she ought not to impose upon others any part of that heritage which is culturally conditioned rather than essentially Christian. Even those aspects of that culture which are commendable ought not to be made requirements for membership in the Church of Jesus Christ.

In dealing with Americans of many different cultural and religious backgrounds, one finds no greater variety of viewpoint than that toward the proper use of the Lord' s Day, for America itself is undergoing a great change in its attitudes toward the use of Sunday. In a few generations, this day has been changed from one largely used for rest and worship to one used largely for work and leasure. The Puritan Sabbath, which had a large influence in earlier American history, has given way to a far different viewpoint. The result is confusion of thought on the subject, and therefore prevailing practices are based on expediency rather than on definite principles.

Seeing and believing : using visual art in spiritual formation in the local congregation

Author
Philip G Schairbaum
Abstract
The purpose of this project is to explore how visual art can help individuals and local congregations move in some new directions as they seek to reclaim the essence of their calling--namely, the life-long process of growth toward the fullness of Christ.

Part One is a general inquiry into the place of aesthetics in the Christian life. Its conclusion is that art is a gift which God has given to humankind in order to glorify God and to refresh and strengthen the Christian life. A case is made that we are called to seek out and involve ourselves with works of art as they inform us theologically, enrich us spiritually, and serve as channels through which God may speak.

Part Two addresses how spiritual formation takes place in individuals and congregations. The work of Urban T. Holmes and Corrine Ware is used as a foundation for identifying different types of spirituality and for exploring how visual art can assist people in their spiritual journeys. The spiritual discipline of "Lectio Divina" is re-defined and re-interpreted as "Visio Divina" for use with visual art.

Part Three is a presentation and analysis of actual experiences individuals and the congregation at large in Charlevoix have had using visual art in religious education, corporate worship, personal prayer, and outreach--categories that parallel the spiritual components of Holmes' Circle of Sensibility. Some examples are offered as to how visual art has been used to enhance spiritual formation in the First Congregational UCC in Charlevoix.

This project gives evidence that utilizing visual art in more intentional ways will not only bring a renewed sense of spiritual vitality to those individuals who engage it directly, but can move whole congregations through its power to awaken, inform, illuminate, and deepen our life in the Spirit.

Dialogues to foster interreligious understanding

Author
Dorothy Yoder Nyce
Abstract
This project provides a dozen dialogues created to assist North American Christian readers to better understand effective exchange between people of diverse living faiths. While proximity of religions provides natural occasions for and urgency of open dialogue, partners anywhere benefit from increased respect and understanding achieved through knowledge, convictions, and attitudes expressed. Since religion and culture directly overlap, interreligious conversation is a cross-cultural exposure of faith issues.

The geographical focus of the dialogues centers in India, with aspects of the dominant Hindu religion intersecting with the small, minority Christian presence. While attention to the Mennonite denomination reflects the writer's Protestant connection, principles apply to any Christian engagement with other religions. Assumptions that undergird discussion include: religious plurality is a given; active interreligious exchange is inherent to being religious; Christian commitment is to God through Jesus Christ; to love the neighbor is a privilege.

A Didactic Approach to Spiritual Formation:
Integrating Spiritual Practices to the Seminary Curriculum of the Diaspora of Chinese Students in Panama, Central America

Author
Jacqueline Siu Yin Lam D.Min.
Abstract
An awareness of God’s presence and a capacity to hear Him are two important elements to cultivate an intimate relationship with God for spiritual growth. This research portfolio seeks to answer the question: Will prayer encounters with God through the practice of praying with the Scriptures facilitate the participants’ capacities to hear God and increase awareness of His presence? The context for the research portfolio is seminary students and a small group of participants from the Iglesia Evangelica China De Panama from the Chinese diaspora in Panama, Central America.
This portfolio offers my spiritual autobiography (Chapter II), which traces the influences of three different Christian spiritual traditions (Foster 1998) and my professional training in various fields that have helped me hear God and experience God’s presence in my daily life. A four-year academic model and curriculum (Chapter III) is created from the experience of my spiritual formation and implemented for the Alliance Bible School of Central and South America. Finally, a field research project (Chapter IV) is offered to examine the effectiveness of Lectio Divina to facilitate prayer encounters in a small group of students from the Iglesia Evangelica China De Panama. The results show positive responses by the participants in their ability to hear God and experience his presence. However, practicing quietness remains a challenge for some Chinese Christians for their spiritual growth in the Panamian context.

A Christian response to religious violence : a curriculum addressing non-retaliation and peace in northern Nigeria

Author
Apollos Inuwa Handan
Abstract
The goal of this study is to provide student pastors with a roadmap for peaceful coexistence through forgiveness and reconciliation as taught by Jesus and early Christians in the theology of non-retaliation found in the New Testament. Jesus' point of emphasis in his teaching is that his followers should avoid violence, whether capital punishment or engaging in destructive war in his name. Jesus taught his followers this new approach because he knew that those who were committed to following him would surely have enemies who would physically attack them. He knew that as humans we are bound to react to our enemies in the form of anger, sorrow, or defensiveness. Graduates of Pastors' School, Jos, and their congregations will have a mandate to apply Jesus' teaching on peace and forgiveness in their relationship with Muslims in northern Nigeria. This curriculum will address four basic areas of concern within four semesters. Each basic area of study in a semester will provide description, purpose or goal, objectives, requirements and procedures.

Truthing in love : engaging conflict with the disarming love of God

Author
Heidi Sue De Jonge
Abstract
We advise and encourage each other with the language of war: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” We use the battle imagery of Scripture with our brothers and sisters in Christ. “Fight the good fight of faith,” we might say, echoing Paul’s words to Timothy in his first letter (1 Tim. 6:12). “Put on the full armour of God, so that you may take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:10) may serve as a good pep talk for your bullied child on her way out the door for school. And when we are particularly exhausted, we may take for ourselves Moses’ words to the Israelites before the Egyptians reached them: “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Ex. 14:14).

The Gospel : the power of God for salvation mobilizing the church for evangelism to Muslims

Author
Barbara Yandell
Abstract
Global geo-political realities have unsettled and promoted massive movements of Muslims fleeing countries formerly restricting Christian witness into Europe and North America. Many current Islamic regimes have been destabilized contributing to Muslims experiencing cognitive dissonance, disillusionment and despair. Christians now have the opportunity and urgent commission to witness to Muslims on their block, at their workplace, attending schools with their children, and attending universities. The scale of the upheaval in Islam demands an all-Church emergency mobilization training effort to fast track Church engagement with Muslims.
Evangelical leaders that I have worked with my whole ministry career are asking for Biblically faithful training for evangelism and missions. Many existing courses on Islam commend highly contextualized methodologies, dynamic equivalent models, peacemaking and friendship. They do not teach the fundamentals of evangelism, of communicating the Gospel for the conversion of Muslims from Islam to Christianity.
The methods of research employed are narrative inquiry in collaborative action research with colleagues having vast experience in missions, evangelism, apologetics and discipling Muslim people. Field notes, roundtable reflection, interviews and Kirkpatrick’s evaluative process collected and gleaned best practices from case studies and from the Engage Course classes that have been offered so far.

Cultural Constructs in the Korean Diaspora Church Context and the Leadership Challenges They Present to 1.5 and 2nd Generation Korean Women

Author
Lisa Hanmi Pak D.Min.
Abstract
The purpose of this research study was to determine how the cultural constructs of the Korean diaspora church have presented particular leadership challenges to a group of 1.5 and 2nd generation Korean women and resulted in detrimental experiences. This study is important because it revealed just how limiting and hurtful systems of leadership can be when they are not designed to give opportunities to both women and men. This research study focused on the experiences of Korean Canadian women and created a space for the group to openly talk about their experiences through narrative research, appreciative inquiry, and action research. Findings pointed to cultural factors such as patriarchy, which served to reinforce male-centered spiritual authority, and collectivism, which undercut the women’s self-confidence in speaking up and asking questions and cultivated a dynamic where enough women were more comfortable in upholding the patriarchic status quo. It was clear that the Korean diaspora church must be more intentional in creating leadership opportunities for young Korean women and reconsider the cultural patriarchy that is embedded in the communal dynamic. The research findings were also not limited to the Korean diaspora church context; rather, an examination of how cultural constructs and systems shape perceptions of leadership, understanding of ministry, and of the individual leader is a principle that is transferable to other settings.
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