Henk de Roest
This article discusses the social phenomenon of shrinking face-to-face organizations and the so-called 'decline of long-term commitment' of late modern populations and the consequences for Christian community formation. Social and organizational bonds are precarious, as research in such diverse contexts as Great Britain, The Netherlands and The United States seems to indicate. In each of these contexts the results of empirical data are subject to sociological dispute and the question with regard to the direction of the developments remains open. Will Christians (paraphrasing Putnam's study on social bonds in America) end up 'worshipping alone'? In that case, what might the theological consequences be? Can there be communio cum Christo without community? Are communal 'carriers of faith' a necessity? The author discusses this question and argues that 'believing without belonging' is a dead-end route for the church. In the last section of the article four ideal-typical church-concepts, reminiscent of the Weber-Troeltsch distinction of 'church' and 'sect', are outlined of which the contours are emerging in each of the different contexts. The concepts serve heuristic purposes, located between the polarities: 'individual and community', 'freedom and bonds'.
Henk de Roest
The author gives an analysis of the methodological advantages and disadvantages of using focus groups in practical ecclesiology. He makes a plea for including focus groups in a mixed method strategy in practical ecclesiological research, being attentive to their performative effects. He asks, if ecclesiology governs the methodological design of a practical-ecclesiological research project, should not methods that focus on conversational practices and how people build up a view out of the interaction that takes place within a group, be pulled into the heart of the research? In his reply to this question, the article gives a relational-constructionist, an ecclesiological and a theological rationale for using focus groups.
Journal of Ecclesiology and Ethnography
The journal maintains a special interest in a breadth of systematic-theological perspectives, including the doctrine of the church, as they relate to qualitative study of emerging and existing ecclesial communities and practices. The journal seeks contributions offering critical discussions of processes and programs for ecclesial renewal and development, as well as examinations of new forms of being church. It aims to broaden and advance research at an international level which contributes to a deeper understanding of 'church in practice' in a global context.
The journal is an initiative of the Ecclesiology and Ethnography Network.
The journal will include articles that are:
(a) empirical studies of churches, congregations and other ecclesial communities, together with studies of particular ecclesial practices;
(b) theological studies of ecclesial communities and practices, engaging with empirical studies;
(c) critical discussions of processes and programs for congregational renewal and development, as well as new forms of being church;
(d) an exploration of Christian doctrine, including doctrine of the church, as it relates to empirical study of contemporary ecclesial communities and practices;
(e) discussions of methodological issues with regard to ecclesiological research;
(f) discussions of the implications of new technologies and digital cultures for congregational life, and of related methods of enquiry.
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Elpine M. de Boer and Henk de Roest
How should we understand the paradoxical phenomenon that people are showing substantial interest in new events organized by the church in a western-European society that is characterized by dwindling church attendance? An explorative questionnaire study among churchgoers (n = 1016) and non-churchgoers (n = 317) was conducted who chose to attend the so-called Night of the Churches in the Netherlands. The majority of the respondents indicated that they experience the Night of the Churches to be a qualitatively different phenomenon from other festivals (e.g., museum night or music festival). Our data suggest that for both churchgoers and non-churchgoers shared bonding experiences (e.g., a special feeling of connectedness, contact with a higher spirit, together with unknown people) are what makes a Night of the Churches unique. Additionally, the results reveal that this event hardly changed respondents’ image of the church and that more churchgoers (22%) than non-churchgoers (13%) were interested in new forms of being church. Again, shared bonding experiences make the difference when it comes to being open to new ways of being church.