• 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.
    • Beyond Borders: A Christian Ethical Response to Border Control in the United States

      Ball, Jeremy A; McAfee School of Theology
      Border control is a sociopolitical issue in the United States that has ignited heated conversation and, in some cases, caused division among U.S. citizens. In the midst of seeking solutions to better secure our nation’s borders, many have neglected the fact that there is currently a human crisis at the southwestern border. Thousands of migrant children have been separated from their families and are now forced to live in detention centers where there is a lack of food and proper shelter. There have also been numerous deaths for those attempting to cross our border. Keeping in mind the suffering, the objective of this study is to suggest a Christian ethical response to the crisis at the border. Providing a political analysis of border control and an exegetical study of biblical passages that may be applicable to the current crisis, this thesis proposes principles and policies that U.S. Christians must embrace in order to see the suffering come to an end. While border control is an issue worthy of recognition, my thesis concludes that the well-being of migrants must be prioritized above other matters and that neutrality in the midst of suffering is not a virtuous option for Christians.
    • 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.
    • Facilitating Transformation Through Narrative Stories at Lakewood Church of Hope

      Burke, Gary; McAfee School of Theology
      This project studied the impact of narrative stories on the life of certain church members at the Lakewood Church of Hope. This unconventional method of ministering to the Members and Guests of LCH to the Lakewood Heights Community will help improve the community's overall spiritual well-being. Through this research, this researcher intended to build stronger spiritual relationships in the Lakewood Heights Community. Initial interviews were conducted with eight men as potential volunteers for this project. Of the eight men, six volunteered to participate in the study. Pre-interviews and post-interviews were recorded and coded to look for keywords and terms. The desired outcome is that the language and terms used at the beginning of the project interviews were expanded in the final interviews as a result of the weekly sessions. The meetings were observed and noted as the volunteers responded to the activities over the course of six weeks. I gave more attention to the language used over the six-week timeline. The results were coded the results and examined for changes throughout the project. In the post-interview, with the hope that they could teach their stories considering the story of redemption, they were asked what their findings or lessons learned in relation to their experiences from this project were. This project opened a door for further research and maybe new methods. The men that chose to be a part of this series have done more than enough to make this a great experience. Many of them were rather reluctant to share their journey. While the men may not have been ready to dive deep into their emotions, they could have been more inspired to uncover things that they had forced themselves to bury with more opportunities of building trust with one another
    • Finding Community and Connection in the Shadow of COVID-19 at Forest Hills Baptist Church Youth Group, Raleigh, North Carolina

      Pate, Kirby E; McAfee School of Theology
      The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world in dramatic and unexpected ways. Closures, cancelations, and quarantines altered our lives and the ways in which we viewed the world. The effects of this season had the greatest impact on our young people, who experienced increased levels of anxiety and isolation. In Church life, Youth Ministry programing and activities across the country were halted or significantly altered because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Without the ability to host traditional programming, and the inability to provide a sense of belonging and connection through virtual activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, the students in Youth Ministry programs became disengaged and disconnected from congregations life. When Churches were able to open their doors and resume regular ministry programming, the problems surrounding Youth Ministry and virtual platforms did not disappear. The Church was open, but young people were no longer showing up. As the world continues to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, Youth Ministry and the Church are in need of programming and experiences that re-engage and welcome back students who no longer feel like they belong. This thesis explores the shifting cultural landscape of postmodernity and seeks to reimagine how to create community and connection among young people in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This project sought to create ministry practices that increased the perceived sense of belonging among students through the structured experience of visual art and storytelling. Five participants between the ages of fourteen and eighteen volunteered to participate by sharing their stories as an act of worship through visual art with the congregation at Forest Hill Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC during the Fall semester of 2022. This research project included six sessions that were designed for students to share their stories and create individual pieces of visual art. Once the six sessions where completed, the students shared their artwork with the congregation as an act of worship. Following the completion of the project each participant completed an individual questionnaire and participated in a group interview. The questions and interview were designed to determine if structured experiences could create ministry practices that increased student perceive sense of belonging within a congregation. The themes that emerged from the questionnaire and survey indicated that students who experienced safety, celebration, and intergenerational community.
    • 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 Can Music Assist in the Subversive Intent of the Eucharist?

      LeGrand, Caroline Dean; McAfee School of Theology
      This thesis explores the Christian ritual of the Eucharist in conjunction with another crucial Christian ritual element—music. It first looks to scripture—1 Cor 11:17-34—and considers what the Apostle Paul believed was the original intent of the Eucharist as established by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper. The conclusion is that it is intended to be a subversive ritual for liberative communal change. The thesis then takes a shift to explore music and its capacity to both solidify and, contrastingly, subvert the existing structure of communities. Operating through the lens of postcolonial theory, it asserts that music can allow subaltern peoples to subvert hegemonic culture through musical hybridity. The thesis finally brings these two elements together—Eucharist and music—to explore how music can assist this subversive intent of the Eucharist in contemporary worship practice. The conclusion is that hybrid music can be applied in the worship of congregations where a hegemonic culture is in the majority population in order to disrupt the homogeneity of that congregation’s music practices and allow outside voices—the voices of the subaltern—into the boundaries of the community, thereby beginning to shift a community’s hierarchical social structure. This hybrid music worship practice, crucially at the moment of the Eucharist, assists the Eucharist in fulfilling its intent to liberate oppressed peoples. The hope is that the method established in this thesis can be applied wherever hegemonic and subaltern forces are at play in the world.
    • 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.
    • Sensing the Presence of God Through Online Worship at Heritage Fellowship in Canton, Georgia

      Bishop, Justin Dwight; McAfee School of Theology
      Can sensory experiences enhance online worship? In an era when church attendance is in cultural decline and online or hybrid worship is becoming the new normal, one wonders how to make the most of this limited time in worship, especially for online worshipers. This thesis examines the biblical and historical use of sensory elements in worship, and it seeks to reimagine them for an online presentation in order to examine the effect of these sensory elements on the online worshipers’ experiences. Ten participants volunteered to take part in four video worship experiences during the Lenten season of 2021, beginning with a survey and semi-structured interview prior to the actual worship experiences and ending with a similar survey and interview. The questions were designed to determine if the sensory elements “enhanced” the overall online worship experience without using the word “enhance.” The themes that emerged from the surveys and interviews indicated that sensory elements were disruptive enough to call attention to the act of worship, enhancing it by making it less of an event to attend and more of an act in which to participate. Finally, in conclusion, this thesis offers ideas for how worship leadership might incorporate more sensory elements in both in-person and online worship that might enhance the divine encounter.
    • Strategizing the Development of Young Transformed Leaders Through the Enhancement of Gifts in the Church of Pentecost U.S.A., Inc. – Norcross Central Assembly

      Owusu, Emmanuel Osei; McAfee School of Theology
      ABSTRACT The Church of Pentecost U.S.A., Inc. – Norcross Central Assembly is a U.S.A. branch of the Church of Pentecost which began in Ghana. Many of the youth in the church are not well connected to the church service. They may come to church because of their parents but when they go to college and are independent, they leave the church. Some of them later come back to the church with a sense of frustration and disappointment. My interactions with them have shown that many of them do not get connected to the church because they do not know their role in the church. This study taught a group of youth in the church about spiritual gifts and their use in the church. I expected to learn about how the understanding and use of spiritual gifts can affect connectedness to church service. Eight participants of ages between 14 years and 19 years including four girls and four boys were selected. The selection was based on regular attendance at church. The project was undertaken in six weeks with five weeks of teaching sessions on spiritual gifts and one week of answering a questionnaire on spiritual gifts and discussing spiritual gifts inventory. The first and fifth sessions lasted for one hour and thirty minutes each and the other sessions lasted for one hour each. The teaching sessions included lecture-style teaching, activities, and discussions. Participants also answered the questionnaire and interview questions to identify their gifts. This was a way to authenticate the results obtained. Participants had very low knowledge or no knowledge about spiritual gifts before the project but after the project, all participants indicated that they have increased knowledge about spiritual gifts. All participants could identify at least one gift they possess and indicated that it is more likely to stay connected to the church by the use of their identified spiritual gifts. Several suggestions have been given about how to apply the findings from the project both in the church and beyond to help the youth stay connected to the church service. Other areas of further research have also been suggested.
    • 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.