Abstract: This article discusses knowledge gained through experiencing the presence of God through the ‘spiritual senses’ as a resource in an Evangelical Lutheran parish. Believers’ being-in-touch experiences with the divine produce a special kind of knowledge that can be shared and passed on in the parish. This ‘spiritual asset’ plays an important part in parochial activities. This development can be explained by the rise of experience-based religiosity and charismatic Christianity, a global Christian trend which is also affecting the mainline churches.
Bonnemère, Pascale. 2016. Church presence and gender relations in the Wonenara valley (Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea). The Australian Journal of Anthropology. Early online publication.
Abstract: Since 1951, date of the First contact, the Baruya of the Wonenara valley have twice been a pioneering frontline for Protestant missions. First in the 1960s, when several Lutheran and SDA pastors moved in, and the second time at the beginning of the 2000s, when three ‘New Evangelical Churches’ settled in the valley. After presenting the history of the presence of these five Churches, I analyse the pastors’ ideas, as expressed during services or in informal discussions, about the place of women in daily life and in church, and about gender relations more generally. The observation of church services reveals a possibility of women speaking in public that was hitherto unknown. Moreover, the pastors’ origins (Baruya or non Baruya) seem to play a role in the way they talk about women during their services, whatever their Church may say.
Abstract: Place-making is a central activity for Christian groups. Yet the scholarly literature contains little comparative conversation on local Christian theories of place. This article ‘thinks across’ ten ethnographic descriptions of evangelical communities in order to pay attention to what these Christians pay attention to in their everyday place-making. It discusses seven problematics that commonly recur in evangelical place-work (namely linguistic, material, temporal, personhood, translocal, transcendent, and worldly concerns). This analysis nuances current anthropological debates on Protestant materiality, temporality, and personhood. The article argues that a central tenet of evangelicals’ place- making is a simultaneous taking apart and bringing together of faith and place. This results in a simultaneous fusing and ‘unfusing’ of situation and setting, which cannot be labeled either displacement or thorough emplacement. More broadly, evangelical place-making provides a modern example of deterritorialization that is different from placelessness. It also speaks to the complex interplay between ideals, intentionality, and agency.
Abstract: This article provides an ethnographic analysis of “deaf sociality” in Adamorobe, a village in Ghana, where the relatively high prevalence of hereditary deafness has led to dense social and spatial connections. Deaf people are part of their hearing environment particularly through family networks, and produce deaf sociality through many informal interactive practices which take place in “deaf spaces”. In this context, efforts by the Deaf Lutheran Church to institute deaf-only signed worship services and (development) projects have been unsuccessful. Deaf community members are a priori socialized into practices of deaf sociality through deaf spaces and see little or no need for this set of practices which bring them few benefits. Furthermore, collective structuring, social security, social work, interpreting and leadership rather happen in the context of lineages and extended families—where sign language is used—rather than in deaf-based support networks.
Abstract: The authors provide a summary of three key developments that have brought change to the field of religious organizations in Finland: the emergence of new Lutheran communities (the St Thomas Mass, the so-called Nokia Revival and the fundamentalist Luther Foundation Finland); Ashtanga yoga as a form of spirituality; and the spread of migrant religious communities. The article sets these developments in the context of late modern communal belonging and discusses how religious communities have been transforming over the last two to three decades in Finland.
Kaufman, Tone Stangeland. 2014. “A Plea for Ethnographic Methods and a Spirituality of Everyday Life in the Study of Christian Spirituality: A Norwegian Case of Clergy Spirituality.” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 14(1): 94-102.
Excerpt: What counts as “real spirituality” or “real pastoral spirituality”? What can be sustainable sources of spiritual nourishment for clergy and others who are employed by the church? These questions might call for a wider understanding of pastoral spirituality than has traditionally been the case, and also for the willingness to look for such spirituality outside the explicitly “religious or spiritual sphere.” The quotes above are taken from open ended, in-depth interviews with ordained pastors in my Norwegian, Lutheran context. The twenty-one strategically sampled interviewees of this study on clergy spirituality all served as pastors in the Church of Norway (CofN) at the time they were interviewed.
At the outset of my research, my focus was primarily the contemplative or devotional practices of the clergy. However, during the analysis, the salience and significance of everyday practices related to children and family life began emerging as a pattern worth exploring more in depth. This is a discovery that I would have probably not reached had I only studied classical texts written by spiritual figures such as Julian of Norwich, St. John of the Cross, or Evelyn Underhill.
This essay, then, has a twofold purpose; one material and one methodological. Materially, it makes a plea for the significance of an everyday spirituality not only for lay (people), but also for clergy, at least in non-Catholic traditions. This might also apply to lay leaders and deacons in Catholic contexts. Methodologically, I want to suggest that an ethnographic approach might enrich the study of Christian spirituality by expanding the sources (or data) to be explored, and by challenging or nuancing existing categories of the field. The ethnographic lens gives access to the spiritual experiences of contemporary people who have not written—or are not in the position to write—spiritual texts themselves.
Publisher’s Description: In African Theology as Liberating Wisdom; Celebrating Life and Harmony in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana, Mari-Anna Pöntinen analyses contextual interpretations of the Christian faith in this particular church. These interpretations are based on the special wisdom tradition which embraces monistic ontology, communal ethics in botho, and the indigenous belief in God as the Source of Life, and the Root of everything that exists. The constructing theological principle in the ELCB is the downward-orientated and descending God in Christ which interprets the ‘Lutheran spirit’ in a liberating and empowering sense. It deals with the cultural mythos which brings Christ down into people’s existence, unlike Western connotations which are considered to hinder seeing Christ and to prevent existential self-awareness.
Webb, Michael. 2011. “Palang Conformity and Fulset Freedom: Encountering Pentecostalism’s ‘Sensational’ Liturgical Forms in the Postmissionary Church in Lae, Papua New Guinea.” Ethnomusicology 55(3):445-472.
Excerpt: In this article I take up Meyer’s recent call to scholars of Christianity: “global Christianity requires attention to aesthetics, understood in the broad sense” (2010:759). I concentrate on the shift in Lutheran worship music practices apparent in congregations in the vicinity of Lae, toward what might be considered a Melanesian Pentecostal or “sanctified” aesthetic (see Scandrett-Leatherman 2008; Yong 2010:175–81, 205–10). Meyer’s (2010) notion of “sensational forms” informs my approach. These are Pentecostal worship practices that are both ap- pealing to the senses and spectacular, and through which participants “sense the presence of the Holy Spirit with and in their bodies” (Meyer 2010:742; emphases in original). Sensational forms, Meyer explains, are “an excellent point of entry into processes of religious transformation” (ibid.:751). More specifically, I con- tribute to the ethnomusicological study of global Christianities by examining the local formation and social and cultural persuasiveness of one of Pentecostalism’s key sensational forms, its liturgy of “praise and worship” (Meyer 2010:751).
Following a description of the field setting and research scope, and a discussion of terminology, I provide a historical sketch of the musical activities and processes that have contributed to the formation of this Lutheran social imaginary in Morobe Province, this local dawning in Papua New Guinea of a new, Lutheran, Christian understanding of the world. Fast-forwarding, I report the emergence of new forms of local Christian musical expression around the time of national political independence in the mid 1970s, produced both in the context of the then-nascent popular music industry in Papua New Guinea, and as a result of encounters around the country with Pentecostal Christianity. Papua New Guineans were certainly attracted by Pentecostalism’s “enchanted theology of creation and culture” (Smith 2010a:39–41) and saw a vision of a new Christian imaginary in Charismatic revivalism and its musical liturgies.
Against this background, drawing on my recent fieldwork among Lutheran and Pentecostal congregations in and near Lae, I consider how, in Morobe Province, new Pentecostal praise and worship music might be understood as “a performative religious critique” (Smith 2010b:688). The gravitation toward Pentecostalized liturgies, I suggest, indicates—among other things—an increaseing dissatisfaction with the kind of temporality aesthetics that have come to govern the Lutheran imaginary, particularly as encoded within its hymnody. I frame the shift in worldview that has been underway from the mission era to the postmissionary church in terms of the transition, desired and/or actual, from acoustic guitar-accompanied to electric band-accompanied liturgy.5 For reasons including its ability to carve out a sonic space, bodily enliven worship, and create worship flow, many Lutheran congregations are, not without resistance from various directions, embracing amplified rock-based church music as the preferred musico-liturgical mode. The acoustic guitar, now pejoratively referred to as palang (Tok Pisin,6 plank or board), is being superseded by electric band worship known as fulset (PNG English,7 full set—of rock band instruments). The contrast in languages as “vessels of meaning” here is noteworthy, with Tok Pisin a local-national language and (localized) English a national/global language. Through interviews with church administrators, leaders, and musicians; discussion of repertoires; and analysis of exemplary praise and worship songs in liturgical performance, as well as field observations, I probe ways in which a new “ecumenical” imaginary is being formed.
Lindhardt, Martin (2012) “Who bewitched the pastor and why did he survive the witchcraft attack? Micro-politics and the creativity of indeterminacy in Tanzanian discourses on witchcraft.” Canadian Journal of African Studies / La Revue canadienne des e ́tudes africaines 46(2): 215–232
Abstract: Many Tanzanians share a basic understanding of the occult as a moving force in the visible world. But at the same time, notions of the occult are characterised by indeterminacies in meaning, thereby allowing for multiple interpretations of particular events. This article explores various readings of two particular incidents that both occurred within a suburb of the city of Iringa in South-central Tanzania. First a Lutheran pastor started suffering from a paralyzed shoulder and a few weeks later an old woman was found lying naked outside of his home in the middle of the night. While both incidents were widely ascribed to witchcraft the article shows how particular interpretations were embedded in and reflective of a dense social climate, characterised by different kinds of tension, inequalities, suspicions of corruption and by religious and medical pluralism and competition. The article argues that the very opaqueness and uncertainty of witchcraft knowledge enabled a variety of actors with different stakes to make claims to truth, spiritual status and moral identity.
Abstract: In this article, I examine the transition from charitable assistance to a professional model of humanitarianism in one American Lutheran agency that emerged from colonial missions to Madagascar. The agency, “International Health Mission” (IHM), primarily supplies medical technologies to Lutheran clinics in Madagascar, Tanzania, and Cameroon. I argue that popular material devices of relief provision, such as handmade bandages, tie the Christian humanitarian project to older notions of Lutheran faith as caregiving and pose special challenges to the bureaucratic model of aid delivery espoused by IHM. Casting renewed scholarly attention on materiality sheds light on the unique dilemmas facing faith-based aid agencies that strategically merge political discourses of humanitarianism with religious motivations for their work.