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Four rural Anglican communities of faith : an ethnography of hope


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Collins, JA 2010 , 'Four rural Anglican communities of faith : an ethnography of hope', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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This thesis is an ethnography of four rural Anglican communities of faith in
Tasmania. Drawing on theorists and concepts from both sociology and theology I
examine how a new model of ministry (Enabler Supported Ministry) has facilitated
re-invigoration, growth, and an outward focus in these rural parishes, which were
formerly characterized by decline and impending closure. My study explores how
these four parishes, rather than adhering to traditional forms of ministry and
resisting change, have embraced change in both ministry and outlook.
My research sits at the boundary between sociology and theology. I draw on
theorists such as Weber, Berger, Drane, Lyon, Bouma, Ammerman, and Finke and
Stark who, likewise, explore this fruitful and rewarding intersection of the two
disciplines. This thesis is primarily sociological but, given the subject matter of the
thesis, it is impossible to separate out the theological and by working at the
intersection of these two disciplines I hope to produce a rich analysis.
This research is unique and important because it addresses a much-needed area of
study in its sociological analysis of rural Anglican parishes in Australia. It is also
methodologically innovative because of my ‘insider/outsider status’ and my explicit
use of participatory action research. There are surprisingly few ethnographic studies
of contemporary Christianity, and very few of contemporary Christianity in rural
locations, particularly from an Australian perspective or context. Much of the
contemporary sociology of religion literature is either large scale analyses of
secondary data charting changes in church attendance based on census figures of
religious identification, or studies of new religious movements or minority religious
groups of various types.
In this thesis I argue that, despite the complex and interconnected processes
characterizing modern society (such as secularization, pluralism, post-modernism,
detraditionalization, deinstitutionalization of religious belief, consumer oriented
religious preference and fundamentalism), the reason these four rural parishes have undergone a process of re-invigoration and, each in their own context, have a
sustainable future is a combination of both theological and social factors. I describe
how, in contrast to their neighbouring parishes which share similar demographic
and socio-economic contexts, these four parishes have experienced the longest
period of sustained health and stability in their recent history. I would suggest that
this is because, in each instance, becoming an Enabler Supported Ministry parish is
a homologous response of these parishes to their context. That is, they are
sociologically apt; and they are theologically apt, too.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Collins, JA
Copyright Holders: The Author
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Copyright 2010 the Author

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