Deep in the Burbs is a story of people in formation. The task of this project—to ask how an increased awareness and understanding of the social Trinity might impact the ideation and praxis of spiritual formation in suburban ELCA congregations—implies that something might be changed, formed, or reformed in the research group—and me—as a result of the research. I will frame this formational process from three angles: the spiritual, the educational, and the catechetical. First, I will define my use of the term spiritual formation and how it relates to the study of spirituality. Second, I will discuss adult learning theory and name my pedagogical methodology. Third, I will discuss the specific discipline of religious education and my approach to adult catechesis.
This is how the internet works…for some of us, anyway. I was on Facebook and saw two of my academic colleagues–Ken Reynhout and Josh de Keijzer–shared a post by Peter Enns that was written by Jeannine Brown. (check out the animation I did for Jeannine, BTW). So I read it, and loved it, and shared it as well. While I was on Peter’s blog, I read a post that was a repost of Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation on the evolving stages of faith. I knew what he was talking about, because I have read James Fowler’s Stages of Faith and Robert Kegan’s The Evolving Self and In Over Our Heads. Both Fowler and Kegan are disciples of Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg and their theories regarding stages of human development.
One thing that surprised me about the DITB Project was the average age of the team. Most of the team members were over 50. I must confess that I was initially disappointed and discouraged by this, but was ultimately humbled. The disappointment and discouragement stemmed from my initial expectation that I would focus in this project on the stereotypical suburban family that has children in late elementary or secondary school and spends exorbitant amounts of time taxiing children to various extra curricular activities. I was interested to know how an engagement in spiritual and theological conversation might impact their spiritual formation. I reached out to many families within this demographic and was repeatedly and politely denied. “We’d love to participate. Thank you for asking. But, we’re just (you guessed it) too busy.”
The research question presented an educational challenge in which the pedagogical and research methodology was as important as the question itself. I was faced with a fundamental question during the planning phase of this project: Would I use modernist, instrumental methodologies to convince the team that certain ideas regarding the social Trinity are preferred to older models, or would I engage the team in a collaborative discovery process in which the outcome of the learning experience was unknown to me? I will articulate, in this section, how I framed the research project within a postfoundational, constructivist, participatory methodology by drawing upon the theoretical models found in Palmer, Kegan, Brookfield, and Hess.