Ecclesial Practices Unit at the AAR Boston 2017

The AAR conference this year will be in Boston. We will be hosting a set of bespoke workshops and panels for theologians and ethicists looking to use ethnography in their research.


November 17, 2017


November 21, 2017

Ecclesial Practices provides a collaborative space at the intersection of ethnographic and other qualitative approaches and theological approaches to the study of ecclesial practices. This might include churches, other (new, emerging, para-church, and virtual) communities, and lived faith in daily life. International in scope, the group encourages research contributing to a deeper understanding of ‘church in practice’ in a global context, including decolonization and postcolonial theologies.The group encourages ongoing research in the following areas:

• Empirical and theological approaches to the study of ecclesial communities (churches, congregations, and emerging communities), especially as interdisciplinary efforts to understand lived faith and practice extending from them;
• Studies of specific ecclesial activities, e.g. music, liturgy, arts, social justice, youth work, preaching, pastoral care, rites of passage, community organizing;
• Studies of global contexts of lived faith in relation to ecclesial communities, for example, decolonizing and postcolonial theory and theology;
• Discussions of congregational growth and decline, new church movements, and ecclesial experiments connected to shared practices in a worldly church;
• Explorations of Christian doctrine in relation to the potential implications of empirical and qualitative research on ecclesial communities and lived faith for discerning, defining, and challenging standard theological genres such as systematics and doctrine, as well as inviting new ways to understand normative logics;
• Discussions of methodological issues with regard to qualitative research on theological topics, especially related to ecclesial communities and lived faith;
• Discussions (both substantive and methodological) of the implications of new technologies and digital cultures for ecclesial communities and lived faith.




Ecclesial Practices Unit and Practical Theology Unit Theme: What Is Theology: How, Why, and for Whom?

Saturday, 9:00 AM–11:30 AM
Sheraton Boston-Commonwealth (Third Level)

Mary McClintock Fulkerson, Duke University, Presiding Panelists:

Natalie Wigg-Stevenson, University of Toronto

Karen Kilby, University of Durham
Tom Beaudoin, Fordham University
Daniel Franklin Pilario, Adamson University


Ecclesial Practices Unit. Theme: Transcending the Human: Theological Ethnography and Materiality

Monday, 4:00 PM–6:30 PM
Hynes Convention Center-208 (Second Level)

Jonas Ideström, Church of Sweden Research Unit, Uppsala, Sweden, Presiding

Michael Grigoni, Duke University

Guns, Affect, and the Actant God: New Materialism and the Ethnographic Turn in Ecclesiology

Linn Sæbø Rystad, MF Norwegian School of Theology

Materiality’s Role in Children’s Meaning-Making from Preaching – A Norwegian Case Study

Andrew Rogers, University of Roehampton

Ordinary Theologies of Place: A Case Study of New Black Majority Churches in London

Laura Lysen, Baylor University

Net/work in Memory of Freddie Gray: Lethal Objects, Theological Materiality, and the Church

Business Meeting:

Natalie Wigg-Stevenson, University of Toronto, Presiding

Please join us for our annual business meeting for the last 20minutes of this session. We’d love to share with you a little bit about our plans for the coming years, and to hear from you what further questions and topics you think we should be exploring. Prior commitment to the Ecclesiology and Ethnography network is not required to participate in the Business Meeting. Anyone who wants to connect with the work we’re doing at the intersection at ethnography and theology is welcome to come!


About the AAR

The American Academy of Religion brings thousands of professors and students, authors and publishers, religious leaders and interested laypersons to its Annual Meeting each year. Co-hosted with the Society of Biblical Literature, the Annual Meetings are the largest events of the year in the fields of religious studies and theology.


AAR Steering Committee

Jonas Idestrom, Co-Chair, Church of Sweden Research Unit
Natalie Wigg-Stevenson, Co-Chair, Emmanuel College, University of Toronto
Mary McClintock Fulkerson, Duke Divinity School
Peter Ward, Durham University
Timothy Snyder, Boston University
Tone Stangeland Kaufman, MF The Norwegian School of Theology