[Skip to Content]

Ethnography, Embodiment, and Virtual Worship
We invite presentations that address theologies and practices of shared embodiment through liturgy in online formats and that use ethnographic methods to engage the possibilities and challenges that virtual formats pose for communal worship. Submissions that incorporate original fieldwork will be prioritized. While some faith communities have worshipped together through online formats for many years, the global Covid-19 pandemic forced many congregations to engage in online worship together for the first time. We seek papers or presentations that investigate pandemic practices of communal liturgical space and time, as well as the possibilities and limits of shared embodiment in digital spaces. Presentations that explore changes or adaptations to ritual practices such as preaching and prayer, communion and baptism, as well as occasional services such as funerals and weddings are welcome. What do ethnographic explorations of online liturgy reveal about changes and/or continuities in forms of participation and leadership? What kinds of access to both human and divine others have been revealed, challenged, or confirmed in digital spaces of worship? What questions does online worship pose for liturgical theology and practice, and in what ways might ethnographic theological research help communities to respond to these changes? Creative formats for presentations are also welcome.

Mission Statement:

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

Method of Submission:



Ecclesial Practices Unit



Theodore Hickman-Maynard, teddyhm@bu.edu

Jonas Idestrom, Jonas.idestrom@ehs.se


Steering Committee:

Hendrik Pieter De Roest, hpderoest@pthu.nl

Mary McClintock Fulkerson, mfulkerson@div.duke.edu

Rachelle Green, rgreen36@fordham.edu

Michael Grigoni, mikegrigoni@gmail.com

Rebecca Spurrier, spurrierr@ctsnet.edu


Session Allotment: Tier 1 – Two 90-minute sessions

Next Review: 2023