course is designed for lay leaders who wish to better
understand their congregations. We will look at
congregational cultures, the material and human resources that
sustain congregational life, and the structures of power and
decision-making that mobilize and constrain people in
the United States, religious groups of all sorts - Protestant
and Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, and many others - gather into
local communities of faith. Those “congregations”
have enormous impact on their participants and on the
communities in which they are located. Participants,
observers, and leaders of congregations often find themselves
needing a clearer vision of the complex habits and
expectations in which they are enmeshed. This course
will offer students a chance to become disciplined observers,
seeking to see congregational life with new eyes.
The course will run from Feb. 10th to May 5th.
meetings of this class will take place online through email,
discussion boards and perhaps even a chat room. The
Course will have its own web site.
Class web site
The primary text for the course will be
Studying Congregations (which students will be expected to purchase for their own
use). Students will also have the opportunity to choose two additional books for purchase
from a list of recent case studies of diverse congregations such
Warner, New Wine in Old Wineskins, a small-town
Presbyterian church in California, traditionally
middle-of-the-road, but transformed by an influx of
Freedman, Upon This Rock, a very large, growing,
big-city black Baptist church that tackles the many
difficulties of its urban neighborhood.
Ammerman, Bible Believers, a nearby growing
fundamentalist church and school
Ammerman, Congregation and Community, looks at 23
diverse congregations responding to changes in their
Articles from journals and portions of other books will be read
alongside these texts to deepen our understanding and experience
new perspectives on congregational life. Copies of these
materials will be on reserve both electronically on the class web
site and in the Hartford Seminary library.
congregations themselves will be our text. Each student will
select a local physical congregation in which a series of focused
exercises will offer an opportunity to build new insight.
The course will require a final paper based on a student's
research with this local congregation.
course is a distance education online course, we will make use of
diverse online religious events and materials to explore and
refine observational and interpretative skills necessary in
studying a congregation.
students will post reading reflections, observational notes, and
impressions of online religious events.
topical course outline
Congregations: How and Why
Introduction to the Diversity of American Congregations
They? Describing a Congregation
Worship and ritual and sacred space
Language: story and history
Worldview and mission: Use of typologies and surveys
Urban and Parish vs. Niche
Learning about communities
Who lives where (class and ethnicity)
Economic and political actors and issues
The religious ecology/partners and competitors
Skills and commitment
structures (including denominations)
Types of power and authority: How things really get done
Facing change: Modes of Adaptation