I started the last course in my program yesterday. It is called Dissertation Proposal Using Social Science Research. It is designed to help us craft a solid dissertation proposal that we can submit after we pass our comprehensive exams in the fall.
Our first assignment was to state our research questions and write three paragraphs describing its importance to us personally, to the academy, and to the church. Here is my response:
How would an increased awareness and understanding of the Social Trinity impact the ideation and praxis of spiritual formation in the suburban ELCA congregation?
The Importance of this Question
This question holds great importance for me personally, for the academy, and for the whole church.
This topic is important to me for many reasons. First, spiritual formation is both my passion and my vocation in the local church. I want to know how to create spaces in which the Holy Spirit can ignite the members of my congregation to be active participants with God’s mission in their local context. Second, I am specifically interested in how the Social Trinity impacts spiritual formation because I feel that my understanding of spiritual formation has been limited by Western Trinitarian ideas that seem to limit spiritual formation to a process of individualistic, inner, personal transformation. I want to explore how the Social Trinity and its corollary concepts of communicative praxis and relational ontology impact spiritual formation in the missional congregation.
This research question is an interdisciplinary one that weaves together three fairly new fields of study—Social Trinity, missional ecclesiology, and Christian spirituality. Each of these disciplines has found its own academic footing only recently, therefore little academic work has been done on their interdisciplinary connections. This research will offer a very helpful new lens into each individual discipline by demonstrating how they are vitally connected in the life of the local congregation.
This question is also important for the local church for the same reasons it is important to me personally. The suburban church is dominated by a Western, individualistic, consumerist mindset that has a tendency to sequester the idea of spiritual formation to the enclave of the private life, thus rendering it irrelevant to the public, social arena. A communicative praxis of spiritual formation may be a key component needed to release the local suburban congregation into a reimagined missional identity.