Pittsburgh Theological Seminary

How can we help people to talk about death?

Author
Ruth Green
Abstract
As people of faith, who have hope in a life after death, is it possible to encourage and normalise this discussion in a safe environment, ideally when people are healthy and before this subject has become difficult and painful? The author interviewed priests in the Scottish Episcopal Church to research their practice in raising death awareness. The results concluded that there are many useful ways that encourage those necessary conversations. By helping each other, their congregations are encouraged to live more meaningful lives.

Investigation of Sanctuary in a Diverse World

Author
Graham McWilliams
Abstract
In a diverse world the provision of opportunities for sanctuary is essential. This practical theological investigation employed preaching and Focus Group discussions to explore four motifs of sanctuary provision: God's provision and protection; A place of God's Name and Glory; Access to the Divine: Relationship; The Sacred Within. Current praxis was explored before reflecting on the most significant way forward using the Action-Reflection Cycle. A theology of sanctuary opened the way for a developing theology of conversation.

Parish Ministry and Leadership How prepared are Church of Scotland Parish Ministers for the leadership role that the General Assembly expects them to play?

Author
Neil J Dougall
Abstract
At the heart of the research was an on-line survey of all Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) Parish Ministers, which produced statistically significant data. 96% of ministers said that offering leadership was a significant aspect of their ministry, a much higher figure than the author anticipated. 60% had experienced 'toxic' leadership, which helps explain some of the ambivalence around leadership in the church. The author concludes that the conversation should not simply be about leadership but about the kind of leadership the church needs, and suggests that it should be servant-like, adaptive, collaborative, facilitative and enabling.

The Psalms "The standard liturgy and grand magazine of devotion for the Church in all ages" [Dr Robert Lee 1857]

Author
Lezley J Stewart
Abstract
This project consists of the re-imagination of a historic book of liturgy inspired by the Psalms. The author takes the original publication of Prayers for Public Worship (1857) by Dr Robert Lee, Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh, Scotland and re-imagines it for use today under the title Let everyone find their voice [Psalm 150:6]. The author's thesis is that the Psalms continue to inspire new psalms of praise. Re-imagining the Psalms for liturgical use the author applies the lens of liturgical theology, employs ethnographic research, and evaluates qualitative data; the results of which show that Psalms continue to inspire devotion and praise today.

An Oasis in a Desert: Introducing Spiritual Practices in a High School Setting

Author
Thomas C Howell
Abstract
Schools that chronically underperform are often situated in neighborhoods that have been neglected by the larger community. Crime, addiction, and high dropout rates are common occurrences. These social ailments may be seen as signs of both personal and communal trauma. Contemplative Christian practices such as divine reading and meditation are a means of countering these sorts of psycho-spiritual trauma. This project will examine the role contemplative practices may have in helping students to combat trauma.

"Blest Be the Tie that Binds," the Church as Life in Communion: Discovering the Congregational Stories that Influence the Theology and Shape the Ministry of Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church

Author
Andrew J Florio
Abstract
This project explores how the interplay between formative experiences and relationships formed in one's community of faith influences one's understanding of ecclesiology. This dynamic will be expounded on by comparing church members' personal stories and beliefs about the nature of the church, with a theological examination of trinitarian ecclesiology and its implications for the faith and practice of Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church. The purpose of this project is to lift up a theological paradigm to the leadership of Chapel Hill as they seek to transform their ministerial context in a manner that is cathartic.

Psychopharmacology as a Secondary Means of Grace: The Pastoral Vision of Wesleyan-Holiness Pastors in the Upper Ohio River Valley of West Virginia, 2017

Author
Heather Vacek
Abstract
Since the use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) has spread in Western society, how can positive attitudes about psychiatric medications be best encouraged among the Wesleyan-Holiness pastors in the Upper Ohio River Valley of West Virginia? Through a survey involving fourteen pastors and a seminar engaging six pastors, the author--a pastor with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)--demonstrates the effectiveness of an interactive seminar in developing balanced yet positive attitudes about psychiatric medications. Mapes' argument focuses on the medical, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of psychiatric disorders, presenting psychopharmacology as the "way of Naaman" and yet as an essential option.

Covenantal community: how baptismal identity can keep the Korean Presbyterian Church of Westchester together

Author
Yong Jonah So
Abstract
Abstract: The Korean Church experience has demonstrated an expectation that English-speaking congregations (EM), birthed from Korean-speaking congregations (KM), will/ought to become independent over time. The Korean Presbyterian Church of Westchester's (KPCOW) EM and KM can stay together when they view themselves as a covenantal community founded by Christ based on its baptismal identity rather than its ethnic one. The author evaluated the influence of a sermon series on the way KPCOW understands its identity by analyzing two questionnaires both quantitatively and qualitatively. The research showed the possibility of influencing a congregation's theological understanding by reframing its identity via a sermon series.

Bringing hidden things to light: fossils and faith in Tennessee

Author
Daniel A Gordon
Abstract
The author reports on an ethnographic, field-trip-based study of science and Christian faith. Twenty-one students of a Christian university completed a survey and interview, and then attended fossil-hunting field trips with a Christian paleontologist. On the trips, the students engaged in scientific fieldwork, scientific discussion, and faith discussion. Other activities included a lecture on paleontology at the university and classroom discussions of experiences. Students journaled after each activity. After all activities, exit surveys and interviews were conducted. Data from surveys, interviews, journals, etc., were analyzed for qualitative understandings of the participants and the field-trip approach to science / faith relations.

"The deaf shall hear and the blind shall see" facilitating liturgical access for a deafblind child

Author
Scott J Lill
Abstract
This paper recounts a doctoral project to facilitate liturgical access for a five year old deafblind child. With John 9:1-41 as a theological context, and assisted by a team of the child's family members and select parishioners, the pastor developed and executed a plan of liturgical reintroduction by appropriating some best practices from deafblind education, including the use of an intervener and the creation of a "tactile missalete." Implemented over six weeks, the perceived progress of the project, as observed in the child's changing level of engagement, was tracked through group discussions and the sharing of field notes.
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