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Ecclesial Practices Unit

Call for Proposals

Theme: Making Space as Ecclesial Practice

Central to the work of many religious communities is the creation of sacred space.  From majestic stained-glass covered medieval Cathedrals to intimate living room ofrendas adorned with the images and the favorite foods of loved ones, the spaces that Christians construct to serve as sites of ecclesial practice are powerful symbols that embody the unique identities and values of those communities.  So much so that the work of making spaces sacred can itself be considered a constitutive ecclesial practice.


We invite papers that employ qualitative research as a resource for reflection on the theological significance of the work that church communities do to build, cultivate, transform, and/or designate spaces as sites of sacred encounter.  This work can refer to the physical labor of manipulating material space or the imaginative and ritual work of invoking/identifying sacredness within physical places.  The theological implications of the ways in which ecclesial communities relate to space are especially significant and revelatory during times of change or transition.  What are the ethical issues involved in churches meeting in formerly “secular” spaces or, conversely, empty church edifices being converted into high-priced condominiums?  What responsibility do churches bear while inhabiting land stolen from Indigenous peoples?  How are ecclesial communities redefining the nature and contours of sacred space?  Papers reflecting on these and any other related questions are welcome.

Statement of Purpose

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 unit encourages research contributing to a deeper understanding of “church in practice” in a global context, including decolonization and postcolonial theologies. The unit 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


Steering Committee Members



Review Process

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members