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New England Religion Discussion Society
(N. E. R. D. S.)

Are you a NERD?  Do you want to gather with other like-minded NERDS?   NERDS is the New England Religion Discussion Society. It is an informal gathering of scholars and religious researchers who meet three times annually to discuss papers or current projects about religious beliefs and institutions. In addition to the exchange of ideas, NERDS also functions as an important network tie for the region's religious scholars, and a good place for a meal and fellowship with friends. 

No upcoming events scheduled.

Contact Sheryl Wiggins swiggins@hartsem.edu or call 860-509-9542 if you would like to suggest a meeting in Southern New England.

Information about Previous Meetings

  • April 7, 2006
    Kevin Ward (Adjunct Professor in Religion and Society and Acting Principal School of Ministry, Knox College, Dunedin, New Zealand) - The future of mainline Protestantism in New Zealand. Believing without belonging?

    Scott Thumma (Hartford Seminary) - Findings from a recent national survey of megachurches

    & Dean Hoge (Catholic University)- Measuring the Catholic Identity of Individuals

  • November 11, 2005
    We discussed two interesting papers - one by Adair Lummis and the other by Cynthia Woolever, both of the Hartford Institute:

    Adair has recently completed a survey of Hartford Seminary's Women's Leadership Institute alumnae and will offer some very interesting results related to their Interfaith interactions and the shape of their spiritual lives. Numinous Experiences and Reflexive Spirituality in the Formation of Religious Capital Among Feminist Women by Adair Lummis

    Cynthia drew on her and her colleagues continued analysis of the US Congregations dataset with a facinating paper about the age-old question of "does it make a difference that there are so few men - or so many women in church?"

The Gender Ratio in the Pews: Consequences for Congregational Vitality, Cynthia Woolever, et al.

  • Friday, May 14th This meeting featured Mark Silk and Andrew Walsh, both of Trinity College's Leonard E Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life. They presented on their latest research and publishing project, which explores religious life in the U.S. by region. Their talk was entitled "Religion by Region: an Overview of a multivolume project on religion in American public life, with particular attention to New England."

    http://www.trincoll.edu/depts/csrpl/Religion%20by%20Region/rbr_planning_meetings.htm  Check out their papers:The Series Preface by Mark Silk

    The Northeast Region Book Introduction and the Conclusion by Andrew Walsh

    We also heard from one of the newer members of the Hartford Institute advisory council members. Edwin Hernandez, Director of the Center for the Study of Latino Religion at the University of Notre Dame, who spoke on his recent research on Latinos in Chicago.

  • The March 26th 2004 meeting of NERDS was hosted by Seton Hall University and organized by Peter Savastano.  It was a wonderful gathering where we made new friends, heard excellent presentations and had a stimulating conversation.  The four papers are linked below.  Take a look at them; they are very interesting!

1) "The Vatican and Pedophilia: The Church/State Implications" by Je Renee Formicola, Ph.D., Associate Professor of PoliticalScience at Seton Hall.

2) "The Sanctity of Marriage: Current Boundaries and the New Vocabulary" by King W. Mott, Ph.D., Associate Dean, College of Arts and Sciences, Seton Hall. King Mott is also a political scientist.

3) "Errant Boundaries in the Nine Inch Nails: Using the Profane to Teach the Divine," by Andrew Tatusko, M.Div., M.Th. and Ph.D. candidate in Research Policy at Seton Hall University.

4)"Spiritual vs. Human Scientific Forms of Consciousness: The  Relationship Revisited," by Anthony L. Haynor, Chairperson of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and also Department Chair

  • The September 12, 2003 gathering of NERDS was quite a celebration.  The meeting coincided with a day long conference on the past, present and future of Congregational Studies.  Dozens of experts in the field came to Hartford to share their memories of how the discipline got started and has progressed, as well as sharing of their current work.  Some of these persons included former Hartford Seminary faculty, Jackson Carroll and Bill McKinney, as well as Loren Mead, Barbara Wheeler, and others.  

  • The April 11th 2003 New England Religion Discussion Society meeting our focus was on the latest research about aspects of Gay and Lesbian Religious Life. Our four presenters offered panel-like introductions to their research, with each taking a few direct questions on their individual efforts.   Then, after a break, we had a more general discussion of the topic.  The research of each presenter was superb and prompted stimulating discussion
  • The presenters for the NERDS gathering are listed below:

    Salvador Vidal-Ortiz, Sexuality, Gender and Race: LGBT’s at the Crossroads of Santeria Religion Practices and Beliefs  

    Peter Savastano, "St. Gerard Teaches him that love cancels that out": Devotion to St. Gerard Maiella among Italian American Catholic Gay Men in Newark, New Jersey.  

    Aryana Bates, Liberation in Truth: African American Lesbians Reflect on Religion, Spirituality, and their Church. 

    Baptiste Coulmont, Do the Rite thing: Religious Civil Unions in Vermont. 

  • During the October 11th 2002 NERDS meeting we heard a presentation by Scott Thumma addressing the recently released Religious Congregations Membership Study and how its picture of U.S. religion compares to other national studies of congregational and denominational life.  
    Additionally, the newest faculty member of the Hartford Institute, Cynthia Woolever, gave a talk, entitled "Community Outreach:  A Description of Worshipers and their Congregations," about her recent research project, the US Congregational Life Study, which collected data on over 300,000 religious attenders.  The presentation based on the USCLS data included a profile of what congregations and their worshipers are currently doing in terms of outreach as well as how community outreach is related to factors such as denomination, size of congregation, and vitality (e.g., as measured by growth, levels of involvement, faith and spiritual practices).  

  • At the September 2001 gathering we spent some time with Dr. Ingrid Mattson, an Islamic scholar from the Macdonald Center discussion the religious issues raised by the 9-11 attacks.  We also heard Steve Waldman, the founder of BeliefNet (www.beliefnet.com) which is one of the most trafficked religion site on the web, discuss his and their web site's efforts in creating on-line religious communities and the overall phenomenon of online religion. We also listened to the working draft of a paper by Rod Carveth, a professor of communication formerly at Southern Connecticut State University, on the role of the church in combating the digital divide. 

  • At the March 2001 meeting, we heard about the Faith Communities Today summary "A Report on Religion in the United States Today" by Carl Dudley and Dave Roozen.  This project also has a web site dedicated to providing details and data at http://fact.hartsem.edu.  

  • At the September 2000 meeting, we listened to and discussed Michael Durall's article "Fund Raising in Religious Communities."  We were also treated to the sabbatical work of Cheryl Townsend Gilkes entitled "Revival, Reorganization and Social Change: the Sanctified Church and the Reconstruction of Community, 1880-1960"

  • At the February 2000 meeting we were challenged by two papers that bridged the issues of faith and political engagement. In a broad sweep of historical factors,   Peter Dobkin Hall, of Yale offered a perspective on the current situation in "Faith Traditions, Public Engagement, and Organizational Preferences in America, 1800-1998."   Based on data in the last quarter century, William D'Antonio, of Catholic University, discusses "The Religion Factor in US Congress: Culture War vs. Religio-Ethnic Theories Reconsidered."

  • During the September 1999 meeting we heard Penny Edgell Becker's latest research article entitled "Congregations Adapting to Changes in Work & Family." and Andrew Walsh's paper, "Contesting the City: Catholic Assertings and Protestant Responses in Late 19th Century Hartford."
  • At the June 1999 meeting we discussed collaborative research ventures and the use of the web in our research efforts. 
  • At the September 1998 meeting we heard papers by Adair Lummis, "Judicatory Niches and Negotiations" and by Jay Demerath, "Excepting Exceptionalism." 
  • During our June 1998 meeting we discussed two works in progress: Penny Edgell Becker's work on the reception and impact of contemporary family styles on churches, and Larry Mamiya's research on the growth and influence of Muslim congregations in the U.S.
  • At our March 1998 meeting we discussed a paper on megachurch characteristics by Scott Thumma and Loren Mead's material from his provocative new book on the Financial Meltdown in the Mainline.




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