Faith Communities Today and the
Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership
Under the leadership of David Roozen, the "Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership" brought together more than 40 participants from Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Bahai' and Orthodox Church organizations to develop cooperative congregational survey research in conjunction with the census in 2000 and then in 2005, 2008 and 2010. By developing common procedures, comparable instruments and coordinated schedules it will become possible to share data on all forms of congregational life throughout the United States. The resulting national data enables pastors, church leaders and scholars to make unprecedented comparisons among congregations and denominations.
Church Inventory and Consulting Services
The Hartford Institute, under the name Center for Social and Religious Research, has had a long history of expertise in theoretically-informed practical research on congregations and denominations. The faculty and staff of the Institute has applied this knowledge to the design of several survey instruments for local congregations. These instruments can assist a congregation in its efforts to understand its unique culture, shape its programmatic agenda, and conduct its pastoral searches. Interested church leaders are encouraged to follow the link below for more information or contact the Institute's office.
Pedagogies for Interfaith Dialogue
The increased necessity for and everyday experience of interfaith engagement has made the typically "informational" nature of seminary courses in interreligious relations inadequate. In response President Hadsell and David Roozen have received a grant from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion to enhance the capacity of seminaries to include interfaith dialogue in their teaching. The project will develop six critical case studies of courses in interfaith dialogue that optimize the full range of dialogical practices and purposes, including the advancement of mutual understanding and appreciative relationships. Case studies will be written by a working group of Hartford Seminary and non-Hartford faculty. Case writers will be assisted by critical engagement with consultants in educational pedagogy and interfaith relations, by funding to hire evaluators for their case courses, and by dialogue among themselves, with Hartford Seminary faculty and with peers responding to draft cases during a conference for theological educators. The Summer 2008 conference will serve as an initial vehicle for sharing the cases. Subsequently, revised cases will be published both electronically and in paper, with an anticipated release in January 2009.
Discerning Theologies: New Methods for Studying Congregations
Current methods in congregational studies tend to treat the congregation as an undifferentiated object of inquiry-an organization just like any other. The result is an unfortunate distance from the theological discourse central to congregations, an undervaluing of the theological roles and claims within congregations, and an inability to connect such discourse with either a broader public discourse or larger theological traditions. More basic still, from a research perspective we do not know which methods would actually, best clarify the theological character of congregations because there has been little attention to theology as the focus of careful study in churches. In response, James Nieman has received a grant from the Lilly Endowment to establish an interdisciplinary working group of five scholars, unified by a practical theological view of congregations, which over the course of two years will develop an array of research methods capable of recognizing theologies in congregations. The new methods of invested research will combine careful attention to the concrete and complex reality of congregations (like good tools of social analysis) with the strategic aims of practical theology (able to name what is and might be in light of local and larger traditions). Initial dissemination of results is anticipated by Spring 2008. The group will also set direction for future work beyond the grant period, such as further discovery, testing, and teaching of new methods.
Continuing National Megachurch Research
Hartford Institute facultyperson Scott Thumma and Dave Travis and Warren Bird of Leadership Network are continuing to collaborate in the study of megachurches on a national level. They are planning an investigation of the attitudes and interests of attenders of two dozen megachurches in 2007-08, a national survey of all megachurches in 2008 in conjunction with the FACT 2008 study and an extensive study of megachurches and their members in 2010, again in conjunction with the FACT 2010 study. The goal of this research is to provide more accurate information about these large churches and also track the changes taking place in these most innovative congregations.
New England Religion Discussion Society (NERDS)
NERDS is an informal gathering of scholars from various religious studies disciplines. This group meets three times a year at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research at Hartford Seminary to discuss working papers or current projects of two of its participants.
Congregational Studies Institute
The Congregational Studies Institute is a biennial educational event using readings, plenary sessions, and small group field studies in local congregations to refine participants' ability to analyze the life of the congregation. This disciplined immersion will provide instruction in the basic tools for congregational analysis.