Negotiating the flow: an ethnographic study of the way two URC congregations shape and are shaped by members

Russell, Jean Marion (2015). Negotiating the flow: an ethnographic study of the way two URC congregations shape and are shaped by members. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This study was conducted with two congregations from two different joining denominations within the United Reformed Church in two post-industrial towns. I spent two years with each congregation as a participant observer, taking part in congregational life and interviewing members for a total of four years.
My interest is in the activity that members of these congregations undertake to sustain and change their congregation’s identity. What particularly interested me was how a Reformed cultural identity was sustained, as there is no central body preserving the tradition.
In tackling these issues, I explore the interplay of identity with location, community and worship. The recurring tensions drew my attention to the ways identity is renegotiated, which I explore further by engaging with the dynamic metaphor of flow and turbulence. I formulate a concept of belonging by modifying Foucault’s understanding of technology. I go on to explore the way that this technology of belonging is a driver of members’ interaction with the congregational identity.
I therefore argue that congregational identity is a recapitulatory process, which engages the members’ understanding of themselves as belonging to the congregation. In doing this I demonstrate the unsettled, contraplex nature of members’ engagement with the congregation’s identity.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, Department of Theology and Religion
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BX Christian Denominations
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology


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