Theology, Practical

A Narrative Case-Study of ACEs: Trauma-Informed Ministry for New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church and Pontiac, Michigan

Keyon S. Payton
This study addresses the severe consequences of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the need for the Church to provide early interventions that will curve destructive patterns of behavior that aid healing from these traumas. The roots of the problem lie in the cultural, theological, and practical inability to reach behaviorally challenged children and youth who have been traumatized by ACEs. The results lead up to the core question of this research: how could priestly listening and theology by heart method (empathy- and love-centric) serve as a method for ministry to repair, renew, and restore healthy relationships that can provide healing.

Somehow We Thrive: A Phenomenological Study Exploring Spiritual Practice in African American Women Leaders as Prescription for Thriving

Vanessa D. M. Monroe D.Min.
Significant research reveals the importance of spirituality in the life of the Black woman but does not describe the spiritual practices particular to or for the Black woman. This research, by placing culture in context, seeks to understand the practices, spiritual and otherwise, of Black women leaders. Using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis from a womanist lens, the Black woman leader is invited to make sense of her own experience providing new possibilities for engagement by Spiritual Directors and faith communities. Black women leaders are the embodiment of survival and thriving, and there are spiritual practices that have enabled that survival and flourishing.

As a Hen Gathers Her Chicks:
The Impact of Intergenerational Relationships
on the Faith Development of Young Adults
at Sunrise Valley United Presbyterian Church

Laura Elizabeth Strauss D.Min.
Young adults make up a fifth of the worshiping body of Sunrise Valley United Presbyterian Church (SVUP). With the percentage of Americans claiming no religious identity increasing from 15.0% in 2008 to 19.3% in 2012, there is a decline in ecclesiastical engagement amongst young adults, particularly Generation Z. SVUP’s ongoing increase in young adults amongst its membership sets the congregation apart. This project uncovers the role intergenerational Christian fellowship plays in young adults' ongoing faith development. This project uses the language of mothering in light of young adults functioning, in North American middle and upper class, as adolescents still seeking the maternal warmth provided by the church in furthering their Christian development.

(Re)Discovering the Joy of Ministerial Priesthood: A Spiritual Journey in Continuum

Thomas Philip D.Min.
This study identifies a pathway for the spiritual journey, particularly for those engaged in the ministerial priesthood as well as anyone who wishes to become closer to God and find joy in life. There is a discussion of the meaning of the priesthood, basing Bible and Catholic Church documents, and its challenges and demands. Importance of positive psychology in the spiritual journey is also studied. The interview responses have guided the development of this thesis in this direction. Real-life situations are brought out to show the importance of the cross in life and how one can find joy through the cross is emphasized.


Suzanne Zampella D.Min.
Many Christians do not know who they are in Christ. This project seeks to
reclaim union with Christ as the core of Christian identity and to develop a curriculum for
teaching this concept. Psychologists consider the formation of personal identity to be the boundary
milestone to adulthood. A stable sense of identity provides a rootedness that allows a
person to weather the changes of his life, social network, and the world.
Without a stable identity, the person may well look to the world to make sense of himself,
leaving him vulnerable to the loudest voice of the day whether that is media, individuals,
or government. Recent changes in society have made forming a stable identity far more difficult
than in previous generations. The mobility of society has removed the identity of place;
the breakup of families has removed the identity of family; expanding horizons of
education and career have blurred class and occupational identities.
The church is not immune to these difficulties. A personal identity is only as strong as the ideas and principles on which it is built. The concept of union with Christ gives believers a framework of identity based on who they are in Christ. In Christ, believers are given meaning and purpose as they join God’s mission of reconciliation. In union with Christ, the image of God damaged by sin
is restored. This restores the believer to what he was created to be. This restoration
provides an identity which does not diminish individuality but instead allows believers to
celebrate their different giftedness within the framework of common spiritual union. In
relationship with the Creator and grounded in truth, the believer is less susceptible to the
manipulations and falsehoods of culture. Identity in Christ influences the believer’s
understanding and relationship to every aspect of life.

Finding Home in the Wilderness

Andrew Thomas Bossardet D.Min.
Finding Home in the Wilderness is an exploration of the intersection of pastoral care, Christian spirituality, Biblical studies, Reformed theology, and trauma theory. This work contains a survey of trauma studies in the United States and its influence on theology, particularly Reformed theology. It also surveys several passages in the Gospel of Mark through a trauma-aware lens. John Calvin’s legacy is reconsidered through his own potentially traumatic circumstances. The project contains independent research on the impact of trauma-informed spiritual practices on the pastoral care capacities of nine pastoral leaders over the course of approximately six months. This project was successfully defended in February 2022.

Competency-based assessment for ministerial authorization in the United Church of Christ : a model for implementation

Nora Driver Foust
Knowledge is readily available today with Google and other search engines designed to answer any question. However, the integration of knowledge into understanding and competency is not as straightforward. To address the challenge of integration of knowledge and competency for ministerial authorization, this project follows Richard Osmer’s four tasks of practical theology and looks at the United Church of Christ’s (UCC) Marks of Faithful and Effective Authorized Ministers alongside principles of competency-based assessment. The project presents a working model for UCC Committees on Ministry across the denomination for implementation of the new Manual on Ministry (MOM). The new MOM embraces a single form of authorized ministry and the use of the competency-based Marks with all ministerial candidates, seminarians, and those on alternative paths to authorization. Alongside a model for UCC Committees on Ministry, this project opens doors to further change in the UCC’s process and points to possible implementation of competency-based assessment programs in other denominations. This project opens with a glossary and the state of the field in Chapter 1 leading to the research question on how the UCC might move to embrace the Marks and develop an implementation strategy for using them in a true competency-based approach. Chapter 2 includes a literature review. Chapter 3 offers a glimpse at how the education world uses competency-based assessment and offers five principles for how their use might be carried over into the assessment work of UCC Committees on Ministry. Chapter 4 presents the model for how one UCC Conference implemented this use and Chapter 5 draws conclusions and points readers forward to possible application of a competency-based assessment model in their own setting.

I wonder : scientific exploration and experimentation as a practice of Christian faith

Ruth E. Shaver
“I Wonder…Gaining Wisdom and Growing Faith Through Scientific Exploration” is an intergenerational science curriculum designed to be used in congregations. The goal of this curriculum and the theoretical work underpinning it is to counter the perception that people of faith cannot also be people who possess a scientific understanding of creation from quarks to the farthest galaxies and everything in between. Deepening faith in God and growing scientific understanding of the world around us both begin with the statement, “I wonder…” With this phrase as the common ground between faith and science, Lady Wisdom (Sophia) serves as the guide for hands-on experiments as learners develop an understanding of scientific methods including observation, creating and testing hypotheses, and analyzing results. One original photograph of a fossilized dinosaur footprint is included in the curriculum with the express permission of the photographer, William D. Richards, who took it specifically to be used for this purpose. An analysis of the author’s contextual experience with the curriculum and similar programs, as well as the author’s personal understanding of what mature faith requires as a result of this work, follows the curriculum. There are two appendices: “Faith, Science and Technology Sunday Liturgy” for Sunday, February 7, 2016, produced by the author for “Worship Ways,” a supplemental service of Local Church Ministries of the United Church of Christ; and the author’s sermon for The United Church of Schellsburg United Church of Christ for the same Sunday, “Improbable But Not Impossible.”

Welcoming all : a comparison of church and familial expectations in disability ministry

Amy E. Dows
This project compares the expectations of churches providing intentional disability ministries with the expectations of members affected by disability. Questionnaires were developed for churches with disability ministries and for members or families affected by disability. The comparison of these questionnaires provides a glimpse into the expectations held by families and churches that provide disability ministry. According to the results of this survey, families tend to seek a faith community where their entire family is included and supported. They also believe that the church benefits by welcoming individuals with disabilities. Churches, in general, strive to provide a place that is welcoming to all but with little attention given to issues of assimilation, and churches tend to see little or no benefit to the congregation through including families affected by disability other than in ways that trivialize disability as charitable acts to those in need. Although these churches seek to meet the needs of families affected by disability, issues of assimilation to cultural norms and trivialization of disability continue to impact the practice of disability ministry.

Rest assured : God's gracious will for humankind! A compendium of reflections, recipes, and resources

David Eastman Lovelace
An ever-increasing level of busy-ness pervades the culture of this region of America, aggressively encroaching on the domains of the church, the family, and the individual. There not only seems to be less time for the service of God, but also insufficient time for the periods of personal restoration and the nurture of interpersonal relationships which permit us to be truly human.

This project seeks to explore "rest" as an essential aspect of God's gracious intention for humankind and - hence - as an integral part of an appropriate personal response to God's grace; i.e., a more enjoyable and effective life of discipleship. It will also consider the theological, practical and personal implications of this divine intention and, then, attempt to develop creative materials that may be used by the Holy Spirit to enlighten, entice and enable others to live into a more restful lifestyle as an aspect of their personal discipleship.

While the project will provide curricular materials for a five-session adult education experience, the final document may also be used for individual study and reflection.
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