May 5, 2009
Source: Piedmont 2005

Frank, Thomas
Candler School of Theology


Project Summary

This course will introduce Master of Divinity students to basic perspectives and research methods on “congregations in place:” local church congregations in connectivity with their natural and built environments, their surrounding human communities, their histories, and continuing challenges for well-being and justice in their places. Students will approach the subject through reading interpretive essays about congregations in the U.S. as well as ethnographic studies about specific congregations.
Students will also undertake their own field study in relationship with a partner congregation, either of their own choosing or, if possible, in a single congregation with whom I will covenant for self-study with a team of several students. Field studies will include observation and analysis of the natural environment of the church building, the church facilities and surrounding built environment, community demographics and organizations, and congregational activities. Students will explore and write about the culture of the congregation – its stories and symbolic life – in continuing relationship with its natural and human environment.
The class will experience some research methods collectively, including interpretive walks through the facilities and surrounding land of Glenn Memorial Church on the Emory campus (particularly Baker Woods, the main auditorium, the classroom building, and youth building across North Decatur Road). Students will make class presentations on their partner congregations.
This is also a course in leadership, by which I mean practices of helping a congregation develop a shared vision for its ministries and organizational means for working toward that vision. Students will gain from the course knowledge of research and self-study methods useful in the congregations in which they will work in the future. They will also gain a particular perspective on the nature of leadership as a practice of making connections and modeling the well-being of human beings living in harmony with the natural environment.
Few church leadership studies are available to guide students in a perspective that integrates nature, history, and identity with congregational purpose. I hope this course will evolve into a fresh resource for that perspective.

Course Syllabus attached.

Download: Frank_2006.pdf (102.8 KB)

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