Major Research Grants Awarded to Three PSR Faculty

March 23, 2012
Jake Stafford

Three PSR faculty have recently received major research grants that will deepen the institutions knowledge of Christian traditions from regional and global perspectives:

Randi Walker, Professor of Church History at PSR and a Core Doctoral Faculty Member of the GTU since 1992 was awarded an ATS Lilly Endowment Theological Research Grant for a project that will explore Christianity in the U. S. Pacific region as part of the larger Pacific world from a “people’s history” perspective, investigating why and how people became Christian; what shaped Christianity in the Pacific region, and the distinctive interface of culture and Christianity in this vast, diverse, multi-cultural and religiously pluralistic context.  There are hundreds of particular, local studies but none that looks at the whole region.

The research will contribute immediately to at least three PSR educational endeavors; a face to face Summer Session course in collaboration with a colleague; a book about the history of Christianity in the American West as a part of the Pacific region story; and an online course, “The History of Christianity in the Pacific Region” for PSR’s D. Min. and M. Div. students.

Boyung Lee, Associate Professor of Educational Ministries at PSR and a Core Doctoral Faculty Member at GTU since 2002 was also awarded an ATS Lily Grant for a research project called They Cried Out to God: Korean Tongsunggido as a Communal Spiritual Practice Model for North Americans.

This interdisciplinary project in Christian spirituality and religious education has a two-fold goal: 1) write a scholarly article on Tongsunggido, a Korean prayer practice that the entire congregation prays out loud together; 2) develop ways to introduce the practice to NorthAmerican Christians, especially students at the Pacific School of Religion where I have team-taught two required spiritual formation classes for the last seven years. 

Tongsunggido provides an alternative to individualistic approaches to spiritual formation that is prevailing in North American theological schools and churches.  More and more North American theological schools include spiritual formation programs as a part of their regular curriculum.  However, such programs are often focused on the development of individual spirituality, paying little attention to interpersonal, systemic and cosmic arenas through which God also interacts with humanity.  In contrast, when Korean Protestant Christians engage in Tongsunggido, they do not ask for their individual requests.  Instead they pray for a common theme such as world peace, reconciliation between North and South Korea, and healing of church members.  They believe that if each person gives his or her most sincere prayer in an out-loud voice in a communal context, their petition to God is more powerful.  It is a communal spiritual practice done in a communal context.  This practice, coupled with a social justice perspective that leads us into a just way of living, offers significant insights for North American Churches that need to overcome individualistic culture and spiritual quests.

Rossitza Schroeder, Assistant Professor of Art and Religion at PSR and a core Doctoral Faculty Member at the GTU since 2009 was awarded a fellowship at Harvard University’s Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, DC. She will spend the fall of 2012 in Washington, DC working on her book about “Images and Their Audiences in Late Byzantine Monastic Churches.”