• A Story to Tell: A Study on the Impact of Peaceful Storytelling Within Liturgical Worship

      Wolf, Garrett David; McAfee School of Theology
      The contemporary American Christian setting is often described as a secular age, where the religious is often sequestered to specific places, people, and times. The sacred is regularly thought to be secluded to sanctuaries as opposed to something present and accessible everywhere. To counter the secular liturgies in which people are regularly immersed, the church must discover ways to help move people towards envisioning a different story. Our public worship gatherings are the primary places liturgy can be used to practice, rehearse, and envision our entire lives as being wrapped up into God’s story of reconciliation, redemption, and restoration of all things. By reimagining the liturgical element of passing the peace, this project explores how the story of God conveyed in liturgical public worship connects with the lives of parishioners. The research involves a qualitative method and uses a focus group consisting of eight laity from King of Kings Lutheran Church, who might be moved to seeing the sacred more in their daily lives. This project analyzes how liturgy can be reimagined to act as a tool within our public worship gatherings and church to shape and orient people towards the movement of God in bringing shalom to earth. Over a two-month period, interviews were used to evaluate the impact on the participants before and after each shared their testimony of experiencing the peace of Christ in their life during the passing the peace portion of a weekly public worship gathering. The conclusion of the project is that the focus group members who participated in the project were able to envision the sacred more in their daily lives because of their participation. While this research project did not enable them to define liturgy as the work of the people, their participation did immerse them more discernably into the story that public worship conveys. Finally, for future church development, this research project encourages exploring how liturgy in a variety of forms can help guide people to envision themselves in the rich story and sacredness of God’s presence everywhere.
    • Coping with Death and Grief: Mount Zion Baptist Church Widows' Stories

      Bright, Eddie Lee; McAfee School of Theology
      ABSTRACT EDDIE LEE BRIGHT COPING WITH DEATH AND GRIEF: MOUNT ZION BAPTIST CHURCH WIDOWS’ STORIES Under the direction of DENISE M. MASSEY, PH.D. Three widows were selected from Mount Zion Baptist Church to participate in my thesis project on Death and Grief. Their stories are individually told respectively as shared by them during the interview sessions. Although a semi-structured format was used and open-ended questions were asked, their stories are conveyed in this writing through a narrative as opposed to a verbatim style. Three widows were chosen and deemed sufficient to satisfy this project and to attain the data necessary to organize the Death and Grief Ministry. Two distinctive criteria existed among the chosen participants: (1) Widows had to have been married more than half their years of age when their husbands died. This criterion enabled the project to specifically examine the effect a loss of a husband has on a widow in a relationship that lasted more than half of the existence of her life. (2) Widows must have had the same husband the entire length of their marriage, without separation and/or divorce, regardless of whether the remarriage was to the former husband. This project empowers widows to share their stories, including their thoughts and feelings concerning how their spouses’ death has affected them. Because the narration comes directly from the widows, the uniqueness of each woman’s plight has been demonstrated. These widows’ stories will also be used to educate the congregation and community on how to cope with death and grief based on their shared experiences and stories. The long-term intention of this project is to institute a Death and Grief Ministry at Mt. Zion.
    • Haunted By Faith: An Ethnographic Study of Signals of Transcendence in Nones

      Napier, Nathaniel James; McAfee School of Theology
      Study after study demonstrates that Christendom is no longer the dominant regulative force it once was. Faith, specifically faith in the Christian story, can no longer be presumed as the dominant narrative in West. According to Pew Research, 1/5 of the US public and 1/3 of adults under 30 years of age, are now no longer religiously affiliated. To press the point further, Nones (persons who claim no religious affiliation) now comprise 20% of the total adult population and it is estimated only 15-20% of the US population regularly attends Sunday worship. The cultural landscape of American religiosity has shifted. This new culture, dubbed by philosopher Charles Taylor as A Secular Age, is milieu in which the church now finds itself. Given the rise of the Nones, the church now has a mandate not only to label them, but to understand them so that it can better understand how to communicate the Gospel in a changing world. While data demonstrates a lack of devotion to institutional religion, one may wonder if there are expressions of something more than immanence in the lives of those that claim to be Nones? Is there a non-reducible experience to which their lives attest, expressions that are regular occurrences but not empirically justified? If so, what are they and might these expressions be a means of connecting people of faith to people who are non-religious? To this end, this thesis ethnographically explores the sociological phenomena of signals of transcendence in Nones as a means of discerning where the old world of the gods may still be operative experientially for those that have never been a part of organized faith. As a point of further novelty, this thesis does not interview former Christians, but focuses on those who have been raised in this Secular Age and never had a personal confession of faith. To accomplish this goal, this thesis has three primary large movements: theory (chapter 2), method (chapter 3), and research (chapter 4). After introducing the parameters of the thesis in chapter 1, chapter 2, explores the philosophical, biblical, and theological foundations within which to understand this problem and engage it. Charles Taylor sets the stage of our problem, providing a history of ideas that lead to our context. Pierre Bourdieu’s sociological theory then provides a frame for understanding human behavior from within his concepts of habitus and field. The Book of Acts and the Psalter provide biblical engagement. Finally, phenomenology as theological method is introduced, and an anthropological model of contextual missions issued. In chapter 3, method is specifically framed, with special attention to the various sorts of transcendence at work in persons. The project goes into greater statistical depth about the church’s cultural challenges, and then turns its attention to the qualitative approach at work in this thesis and the reflexive interviewing method employed. This chapter ends with a brief description of the participants and a pastoral understanding of the role of ethnography within the missional enterprise of the church. Chapter 4 is the main body of the reflexive interview process with human subjects and the application of ethnographic technique. This chapter uses five registers of Peter Berger and Edward Farley that occur across all interviews as a means of interpreting participant data. The categories of Tradition, Obligation, Play, Damnation, and Hope are explored in detail as viable transcendent signals in Nones. This chapter ends by framing these findings. Lastly, the thesis concludes by offering a summation of the research and offering a taxonomy of deep symbols that are embodied in Nones. It presents the novel findings of the research, including the new root metaphor of Home for all signals. Finally, it argues that ethnography must be included in any new missiological mandate of the church.
    • How Does Using a Trauma-Informed Preaching Framework Influence Hearers' Experience of Shalomic-Healing During The Preaching Event?

      Gill, Tara Ann; McAfee School of Theology
      (Under the direction of Angela Parker, Ph.D.) Ten minority ministers from four Churches of God engaged a three-part sermon series addressing trauma. The sermons exhibited features of the ICONS Trauma-Informed Preaching Framework. This study was designed to determine if people could experience those features of the framework and thereby experience aspects of Shalomic-Healing. The purpose of the study is to determine the efficacy of the framework as a vehicle for mediating Shalomic-Healing and to refine the framework if research findings dictate such. The study shows the promising effectiveness of the ICONS Trauma-Informed Preaching Framework as evidenced by participants experiencing the features of the framework, which is indicative of the in-breaking of Shalomic-Healing.
    • No Longer Remaining Silent: Defining, Addressing, and Exploring Silence Experienced Among Black Female Clergy

      Mitchell, Pamela Shantel; McAfee School of Theology
      This research project is designed to explore a “silence and silencing” that appears to happen to Black Female Clergy serving in ministerial leadership in Protestant Black Churches. Silence covers a range of topics: sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny to name a few and little, if anything is ever said to address these behaviors toward them. Each participant has been seminary trained, licensed, and/or ordained in their denomination and currently or has served in leadership in a Protestant Black church. There is not adequate literature available to explain the gap between Black Female Clergy completing seminary and pursuing senior leadership positions in protestant Black churches. This research study questions whether the silence and silent treatment Black Female Clergy receives serving as pastoral leaders is correlated with this gap. This research study conducted uses a peer group interview method and will take place via Zoom and lasts approximately three (3) hours. Participants received pseudonyms to protect their identity and to increase their potential to openly discuss their individual experiences serving in protestant Black churches. This interview was both audio and video recorded, and the results were transcribed for analysis. Six participants anonymously attended the virtual session and shared subjective experiences with serving as Black Female Clergy in their respective congregations. Participants openly shared some situations they had previously remained “silent” about. The participants were allowed the opportunity to reflect on the instances of silence and how it felt to share among other Black Female Clergy with similar experiences. The feedback from this interview has identified opportunities for pastoral care for Black Female Clergy and StrongBlackWomen in Protestant Black Church congregations.
    • The Millennial Womanist Preacher: Transformative, Inclusive, Innovative and Balanced

      Jordan, Tierney C.; McAfee School of Theology
      This thesis project will answer the question, how has the work of millennial Womanist preachers demonstrated the expansion of Womanist preaching from the foundations laid by the foremothers of Womanist preaching? Broken down to be further explored and developed by the following sub-questions: (1) How has inclusivity influenced a millennial Womanist methodology for preaching? (2) How has technology influenced a millennial Womanist methodology for preaching? And finally, (3) How has liberative resistance influenced a millennial Womanist methodology for preaching? The primary method that will be used for conducting this research is interviews. Each participant was asked a series of questions, with the goal of curating the answers to the thesis question and sub-questions. Through the conduction of this research, the millennial Womanist preacher has been revealed as transformative in her ability to embody a radical inclusivity, to navigate a multiplicity of vocations via technology and sacred digital space, and to request liberation for herself and others through rest, ritual, and the setting of boundaries. She offers inclusivity to queer and disabled persons with the goal to envision the totality of the true beloved community. She has strategized the best ways to use technological advancements to increase the accessibility and relatability of her witness. She prioritizes her health by setting and maintaining boundaries which leave time and space for rest and the creation of rituals.
    • Who is the Woman in Mark 5?

      Samuels, Rochelle; McAfee School of Theology
      This study explores the potential impact the woman in the Mark 5 biblical text weighs on Jesus’s ministry. The research gives texture to a character that is often used as an object lesson of faith in the scope of biblical exegesis. Using redaction criticism and a Womanist discourse the research finds the woman to be a critical element of the inclusion of woman and other marginalized persons in Jesus’s ministry.