This paper is a report of the creation of a congregational rule of life as a means of clarifying congregational identity and promoting Christian practices. The author is the rector of a small Episcopal church in suburban Connecticut facing adaptive challenges common to many mainline congregations. After discussing the context and prior attempts at strategic plans for growth and mission development, the author describes a "bottom-up" method of leadership development and one-on-one and small group story-telling that draws on both community organizing methods and Benedictine spirituality. The result is a community "rule of life" embedded in a handbook written by the author, revised together with the leadership team and affirmed by the congregation during a visit by the diocesan bishop. The handbook is included in the project report as an appendix, along with a parish survey and other demographic and historical information. The title of the handbook is descriptive: "A Life-Giving Way: Stories, Practices, Challenges and Some Hopeful Affirmations from the People of St. Timothy's." The report discusses the relation of these narrative-based "hopeful affirmations" to traditional normative community rules of life and other kinds of covenants or social contracts. The tension between practice and program or institution is discussed in relation to the virtue ethics of Alasdair Maclntyre, and a method of evaluating the effectiveness of the project is one of several tools the author adapts from the sociological research into emerging intentional communities of Diana Butler Bass and others.
|School Location:||United States -- Connecticut|
|Source:||DAI-A 73/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Religion, Clerical studies, Religious education|
|Keywords:||Benedictine, Church growth, Community organizing, Congregational development, Practices, Rule of life, Spirituality|
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