Religious change

Let all Who Are Hungry Come and Eat - "In Good Faith": Intentional Interreligious Encounter and the Spirit of Hospitality

Author
Chava Stacie Bahle D.Min.
Abstract
This thesis-project explores participant experiences in a long-term Jewish-Christian-Muslim dialogue program. Examined through the theological quests for truth, love and peace, participants reflected on their experiences, placing those experiences in conversation with sacred texts and images from their home traditions. T'shuvah, the Jewish theological act of turning toward the holy, is explored as a transtemporal, liberative and conciliatory gesture, through which the program might create change in the participants' sense of self and other. Reflective storytelling as a method is explored in depth.
The author theorizes that t’shuvah did in fact occur, according to participant interviews. T’shuvah in an interreligious dialogue setting may occur in part because of: the phenomenon of multiple “Us-es,” according to the neurobiology theories of Robert Sapolsky; contact theories through dialogue; and the structure of gatherings proposed by Priya Parker. Ethical considerations of intentional interreligious engagement, especially historical wounds and vulnerability, are also discussed.
The thesis-project used semi-structured, one on one interviews, and applied a novel, four step Jewish theological reflection method conceived by the author: p’shat, thick descriptions of “what happened”; d’rash, placing those experiences in dialogue with sacred texts and images; t’shuvah, how the experiences may have created individual and cosmic repair among the dialogue partners; and k’dushah, exploring whether and how participation in the program translated into action in the world outside the program. Framing the interviews through the lens of “participant as storyteller” is explored in detail as a potential contribution to sacralizing the lived experience of the program.
The rich imageries of shared ancestry, meeting at table, fellow travelers and learning in the presence of the other inform the conclusion that the intentional interreligious engagement of this program may create tikkunim (repairs) in both individual and group to group relationships among Jews, Christians and Muslims.

Authority of Scripture in Today's PC(USA)

Author
Peter David Jones D.Min.
Abstract
For this project, a small group of dedicated adults studied the Authority of Scripture using historical, theological, confessional, and experiential methods seeking to better understand scriptural interpretation and application to daily life. Of specific interest, the group ended with a case study of scriptural approaches to the topic of homosexuality, seeking to understand how biblical interpretation affects daily life.

Below is an excerpt from the project report:
"Too often, clergy treat some information gathered in seminary as secret knowledge reserved for those deemed worthy enough to obtain it. This must emerge from either too high an opinion of oneself, too low an opinion of congregants, or an addiction to the power of knowledge, but the end result has been a highly educated clergy speaking to relatively ignorant congregants. This, of course, is no indictment of congregants, but rather a commentary on the ineffectiveness of clergy in appropriately and clearly providing people with the tools necessary to grow in their faith; to grow beyond the children’s sermon understanding of the Bible itself. This project is one example of ways in which the clergy can engage with congregants on a more level playing field, trusting in their abilities and Spiritual maturity to guide the process of learning. I have often heard it said that people enter seminary with strong faith, have their faith shaken, then emerge even stronger than when they entered. Why do we not believe that congregants can and should follow that same pattern in their faith journeys?"

Integrating the Heart with the Head and Hands in Mandarin Ministry in Metro Toronto

Author
Peter (Qian) Zhang
Abstract
A survey among the Mandarin christians in Toronto shows that they have "a frustrated Hand, caused by the confused Heart." A model was proposed to tackle this issue. Two major findings from the process are transferable across cultures. Both the scripture and history support the holistic transformation of the Heart, Hand and Head. Furthermore, the Heart, Hand and Head can mutually nurture each other through spiritual disciplines.

Investigating how to minster effectively in a rapidly changing and increasingly diverse community

Author
Kay Rodgers
Abstract
God's extravagant hospitality is the theological basis for his research, a congregational study of the United Christian Parish (UCP) in Reston, VA. The paper details successes and struggles during a time of significant change and illustrates challenges facing many churches today. The thoelogical basis of the research is connected with recommendations for churches desiring to expand effective ministry. Recommendations include intentional discernment of God's will, spiritual renewal, increased outward focus, direct active and vibrant presence in the neighborhood, faithful prayer, and aligning God's message to the everyday lives of individuals.

Church hopping in the Diocese of Kampala

Author
Hannington Mutebi
Abstract
This thesis examines the challenge of church hopping in general, and assesses its impact on the strength of the Diocese of Kampala in particular. The study was conducted among 35 priests and 65 non-clergy who congregate within 16 parishes of the diocese. Focus is laid on key factors leading to the actual movement of congregants from one church to another. Each of these factors is analyzed to show its impact on congregations' response to keeping within the fellowship(s). The challenge is then left to the church leaders at all levels to take up the recommendations as a way of reducing the incidence of church hopping.

The transformation of a traditional New England church into a missional-discipleship culture

Author
Michael A Sacco
Abstract
The need for ministry change in New England church culture from institutional to missional and the process undertaken by a church in that region to effect such a change is explored. Emphasis is placed on the development of leadership to guide the process, teaching and training materials to facilitate the process and implementation of a strategy to significantly alter the church's philosophy of ministry. The project is a case study of the church in question and the current effectiveness of the new paradigm for that ministry.

Developing and evaluating the transformative capacities model to cultivate awareness and facilitate practices of faithful presence at Mount Hamilton Baptist Church

Author
Dallas Bernhard Friesen
Abstract
This research project introduces and develops a spiritual transformation model called the Transformative Capacities Model. The heuristic model was developed using the methodology of action research with four participation groups at Mount Hamilton Baptist Church to cultivate awareness and facilitate practices of faithful presence. The model is based on Epistle of James, the life of Jesus and adapts David Kolb's experiential learning paradigm. Data collection tools included: a questionnaire, interviews, and journal logs. This project demonstrates that the Transformative Capacities Model has the potential to be an effective way to cultivate awareness and facilitate practices of spiritual transformation.

Speaking the truth in olove: a behavioral covenant as a tool for social transformation in the local church

Author
Perry Lynn Williams
Abstract
A behavioral covenant is an excellent tool for positive social transformation in the local church. It provides the community with a practical discipline for loving one's neighbor by speaking the truth in love. This paper examines the creation and implementation of a behavioral covenant in a declining sixty-year old congregation in the grip of covert and overt bullying. During the four year span studied, 2008-2012, the implementation of the covenant created major impacts, crises, and changes for the pastor, lay-leadership, and congregation. The evidence shows these impacts as empowering, energizing, troubling, disruptive, and regenerative for all involved.

The long haul: the story of successful church transformation in a New England mainline denominational setting and what your church can learn from it

Author
Kevin B Crispell
Abstract
There is a surprising dearth of literature on the actual mechanics or micro scale of church renewal and transformation. How does one go about changing one's church's bylaws, name, polity, mission statement -- even denominational affiliation? When and where does one even start? How does one accomplish these changes in a regional climate of distrust in leadership and imperviousness to change? Set in New England, a region renowned for resistance to change, this is the story of one church's successful transformation from a mainline denominational affiliation to a newly formed association of conservative churches. The author found it necessary to be willing to stay in his current pastorate for an extended period of time if he was to bring about the necessary changes. It is a story of prayer, process, and patience.

Transformation through the serving and learning experience

Author
Heather H Ferguson
Abstract
Experiences in serving others and learning from those interactions are not new. For those of us rooted in the Christian tradition, following Christ means offering mercy and kindness to others. It means seeking to understand the world around us so as to recognize the places where God longs to be made known. A transformative potential lies within all short-term mission and service-learning events. To tap that potential we must listen to the wise voices of those have served before us and to the Holy Spirit that leads us into transformative relationships. This project explores the works of several researchers and scholars who identify the potential outcomes of service-learning and short-term mission, and those interested in the transformational effects of such experiences. Incorporated into the discoveries are the words of four individuals whose narratives contribute to the collective findings and serve as evidence for the transforming potential within the serving and learning experience.
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