Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary

Children of God in Prison Exile

Author
Tami F Hooker D.Min.
Abstract
Incarcerated men often feel abandoned by God. Those feelings of abandonment result in their avoiding the church even if they have been raised in it, in religion shopping or choosing their own understanding of and way of relating to the divine over any religion, and in overt religiosity, Implications of this are that the men no longer identify themselves as children of God as defined by the Christian faith. For some, it means they have no relationship with God or with the Church as a whole or the congregation within prison walls. This work takes a look at prison as exile and exile as trauma using the exile and the trauma that resulted from it as described in the Hebrew Scriptures for comparison. The intervention is a Bible study based on narrative theology that inmates from a state prison created and that I facilitated and evaluated in a county jail. The study is titled "Where was God?" It was created so men could hear stories similar to their own and recognize that those telling them are aware that God had been present in their stories and also explore where similar stories had occurred in Scripture. The authors chose ten topics to explore. They were: where was God when I was hurt, felt alone, felt ashamed, was afraid, was pretending, felt invisible, felt un-forgiven and was unforgiving, felt desperate and in despair. It concludes by asking where was God when I felt hope and when I felt love. The hope was that this would help the participants to see their own stories as part of a divine narrative, which would lead them to build a more authentic relationship to God and healthier relationships with others.

HOLY LISTENING: CREATING NEW PRACTICES OF MISSION BY EXTENDING PASTORAL CARE BEYOND THE WALLS OF THE CHURCH

Author
Caitlin Thomas Deyerle D.Min.
Abstract
With a goal of developing a new practice of mission to address the disconnect between a congregation and its surrounding community and engage the historical and ongoing limitations of mission practices, this project sought to engage the skills of pastoral care to create a relational focused practice of holy listening. A five-week Lenten Listening program was developed to cultivate this practice and use it to create a deeper partnership with local educators. The evaluation methods used were a survey of the congregational participants before and after the program, and in-person interviews with the educators following the program. The project addresses racial and socioeconomic differences between church and community as a primary barrier to mission partnership.

ACTING JUSTLY: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN RELIGION AND SOCIAL JUSTICE FOR STUDENTS AT LAFAYETTE COLLEGE

Author
Alexandra M Hendrickson D.Min.
Abstract
Many students experience a disconnect between religious practice and social justice, even though social justice is a core value. Showing the connections between religion and social justice encourages these students to have a positive understanding of religion.

What effect will a six-week, small group on social justice in the Abrahamic traditions, have on their understanding and appreciation of religion as central to their ongoing formation?

The group of students I worked with experienced a strong connection between religion and social justice. After participating in the Religion and Social Justice small group, they hold positive, engaging, and holistic understandings of faith.

The Art of Finding Home: Creative Pilgrimage and Placemaking at Immanuel Baptist Church, Paducah, KY

Author
Brittany Riddle D.Min.
Abstract
By guiding participants to reflect on scripture and their life experiences through the creation of art in various mediums, this project was designed to teach a model of creative, theological reflection in order to provide artists at Immanuel Baptist Church in Paducah, KY with the opportunity to deepen their creative identity, to claim their identity as people who are created in the image of a creative and creating God, and to form meaningful community through shared, creative practices.

Participants gathered for seven weeks to visually and creatively reflect on themes of home and community in scripture as a way to practice creative placemaking. By sharing stories, practicing lectio divina, and creating art together, the artists were invited on an inward journey that encouraged theological reflection as an embodied, creative process rather than simply an intellectual exercise. At the end of the seven weeks, participants showed significant movement in the depth of their theological reflections as well as a greater sense of connection to each other and belonging within the congregation.

Even To Our Graying Years: Faithfulness and Renewal In An Aging Church

Author
Jeffrey Colarossi D.Min.
Abstract
My Project in Ministry has begun a conversation that will, with God’s help, work toward the renewal of an aging congregation, Westwood First Presbyterian Church, offering a pastoral care plan to calm members’ anxiety and fear over the challenges threatening the church, and an action plan necessary for the church to be able to live faithfully, into a hopeful future, trusting in God. Engaging Biblical texts, Reformed Polity, the Spirituality of Aging, and key theologies––Practical, Vocation, Discipleship and Life-Long Learning––the project offers the church a clear vision for the future and a tangible plan to organize, energize and engage the congregation. The implementation of the project, involving the Worship and Christian Education ministries of the church, as well as the qualitative social research methodologies of self-report questionnaires and guided interviews, enabled the project to clearly communicate that vision and plan, and convey the sense of validation needed to establish participants trust, so crucial to the success of the project. The enthusiastic response, participation and support of the church throughout the process––particularly its leadership––offers a sense of confidence that the conversation will continue well into the future.

RENEWING THE PRESBYTERY: LISTENING TO COMMISSIONED RULING ELDERS

Author
Samuel Lapsley Pendergrast D.Min.
Abstract
In Utica Presbytery we have eleven Commissioned Ruling Elders (CREs) serving twelve congregations out of thirty in the presbytery. I interviewed twelve CREs who are currently serving or who have served as pastors to learn about their experience and how they evaluate their work, training, and relationship with colleagues in the presbytery. The interview results were categorized, then the group of CREs discussed the results. We developed recommendations for the presbytery in a variety of areas. In the report I interpret the results in light of pastoral theology and the history of ordination. Questions for further study emerge concerning the difference between seminary-trained pastors and commissioned elders, presbytery mission strategy for using CREs, and contextual theological education.

FROM ASHES RISE AGAIN: SPIRITUAL IDENTITY BASED RESILIENCY

Author
Charles Christopher Mason D.Min.
Abstract
The focus of this project was to consider the question of how to build and maintain resiliency. While the project was developed and implemented for chaplains in a health care system, the principles of spiritual identity based resiliency may be an answer for others looking for ways to be more resilient. Spiritual identity based resiliency at its core is a focus on understanding one’s personal value, meaning and purpose as a way to cope and be resilient in stressful and anxious situations. The project was designed to inform participants of the importance of orienting their lives on the basis of their spiritual identity, this is the means of being able to manage external and internal influential pressures that distort or confuse understanding of value, meaning and purpose. The result of a lack of focus on value, meaning and purpose is a lack of resiliency and may eventually lead to burnout.

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?"

Learning to Pray Without Ceasing: Instilling the Importance of Prayer and its Connection to Social Justice in Youth

Author
Wesley Brian Jamison D.Min.
Abstract
Progressive churches continue to struggle with retaining youth, who often seen little merit in the church's traditions and rituals. These spiritual practices are essential to nurturing the strength and vision necessary to create a more just, equitable, and sustainable world. This project offers a model for integrating these practices into the regular activities of youth ministry as a way of reconnecting them to the struggle for justice. It was tested by adding the observance of the daily offices of prayer to a youth mission trip and examining the views of participants concerning prayer and its connection to justice before, during, and after the trip. Noticeable changes were measured during and after the trip, indicating that youth came to see spiritual practices are more important to the work of justice. These findings suggest that the church would do well to look to its own history of monasticism as a model for youth ministry in the post-Christian era.

AN AUTOETHNOGRAPHIC EXPLORATION OF MY CPE LEARNING PROCESS

Author
Anurag Mani D.Min.
Abstract
In this project I explore the Association of Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE) learning process through the lenses of my human condition: my being an immigrant who was born and raised outside the United States of America and came to the country and to the Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) process in my adulthood. I use the research method of autoethnography to explore and give voice to my experience. As an immigrant, I observe that my experience of my journey to become a CPE Educator has been marked with unique challenges that seemed different to the experience of those who were born and raised in the U.S.A. My research question is: Can a careful analysis and interpretation of my own experience in the CPE education process help other immigrants seeking CPE certification to better understand their own complex and unique experience through this difficult, challenging, and exciting process?
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