Sabbatical Ends - New Year Begins ~ Praxis Habitus - On Race Religion & Culture

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sabbatical Ends - New Year Begins

Well, I'm coming off of being on sabbatical from Davidson this year. That meant few responsibilities at the college, yet taking on other commitments elsewhere. Far from a quiet year at home, this past year was one of the "fullest" schedules I've ever had.

wedding at calvin collegeImage by Joits via Flickr

The "Year of Research and Rest" really kicked-off with a seminar headed by the esteemed Steve Warner, professor of sociology at University of Illinois, Chicago, and hosted through the Seminars in Christian Scholarship program at Calvin College (see Michael Emerson's very cool seminar coming 2010). Michigan is so pleasant in the summer, and our family enjoyed connecting with old friends as well as making new ones. It was great to see other colleagues who visited as "guest lecturers" as well. Nice job, Steve! Especially memorable is a morning service led by Steve and his lovely wife Anne Heider at Calvin's chapel (pictured on the right). I'm looking forward to a reunion of sorts with the team at the annual meetings of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion in Denver later this year.

While in Grand Rapids, I had a nice interview for the show Inner Compass broadcasting through PBS. That was fun.

Rice University, Houston, Texas, USA - Statue ...Image via Wikipedia

From there, it was off to Houston.

Special thanks to the Humanities Research Center at Rice University who hosted my stay in Fall of 2009. My colleagues there in Religious Studies and Sociology (with my fellow "HRC Fellows" alongside) provided sustained kindness and camaraderie.

I completed several projects at Rice (including a forthcoming article titled "Ego-Affirming Evangelicalism" in Sociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review and made significant progress on my book manuscript for Oxford). And my students in my Race and Religion Seminar were great - pleasure to have wide-ranging, immersive conversation on issues both personal and public.

Happy to see my new book Hollywood Faith: Holiness, Prosperity, and Ambition in a Los Angeles Church published last October. Reviews are just starting to come in - so far, so good! Thanks to colleagues using the book in their class (see Dr. Walt Bower's review at Barnes and Students seem to relate to the "Hollywood angle" while sneaking in some sophisticated sociological theorizing. Relevance structures and teaching - that's how we roll...

Although it was back to Davidson for Spring, it really was more of a launch point for a schedule full of speaking, traveling, and consulting in a mix of academic and congregational contexts. Thanks to Bill McKinney, I've enjoyed getting to know the community at the Pacific School of Religion. These are my California kin-folk who are so willing to embrace a wide-ranging dialogue on the future of American religion. Scott Thumma and Warren Bird provided an opportunity for me to join a team of scholars studying the "megachurch phenomenon" using extensive data they've collected. Our time at the Innovation Gathering in Dallas (notes & audio here) was productive and fun. More coming from that project, including presentations in Denver and a possible edited book.

Color: Fiber FestivalImage by >>>WonderMike<<< via Flickr

Thanks also to Bayside Church in Granite Bay, a huge center for new-style evangelicalism in Sacramento, and to the American Baptist Church General Executive Council, for each hosting a set of conversations focused on an overlap between their questions and my own research concerns.

In addition to continuing projects, I am excited about a new ethnographic project started this past year on political identity. I found a fascinating congregation in Charlotte, NC, that strives to negotiate the conservative-liberal political dimension in a way that reveals significant trends happening in Obama-Age American Christianity. Special thanks to leaders and members who have been interviewed so far -- their rich experiences contribute to all of us understanding the new changes occurring at the intersection of politics and religion in the US.

In the midst of all that, my first book is coming back to get some fresh attention. With a new preface, a second edition of my book A Mosaic of Believers: Diversity and Innovation in a Multiethnic Church will arrive sometime in early Fall. Nice to see a slim, affordable edition available for students, church leaders, and anyone interested in where religion may be headed.

There's no way to represent all the happenings this year. So many new friends, so many exciting projects, so many relationships that continue to deepen. I'm looking forward to another exciting year!

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