The purpose of this project was to encourage the spiritual maturation of the members of St. John‘s Evangelical Protestant Church (hereafter, St. John‘s) in Cullman, Alabama via an analysis and practice of the spiritual discipline of pilgrimage. The motivation for the study stemmed from a lack of congregational understanding of the rich traditions and theological heritage of St. John‘s. Travel, it was hoped, would help congregants gain a better understanding of their identity as Christians generally and as members of St. John‘s specifically.
Analysis of the history of Cullman and of St. John‘s and a historical and theological examination of pilgrimage provide the basis for the study. Argued herein is that pilgrimage, which includes travel and historical, theological, and scriptural reflection, is an optimal means to discerning one‘s personal, as well as corporate, identity. A series of pilgrimages is proposed, encouraging participants to learn about the roots of the Christian faith (Israel), the spread of the faith (Greece and Rome), and the particular expression of faith practiced at St. John‘s (Germany and Reformation sites).
Due to extenuating factors, the project has begun under less than desired conditions. An initial journey to Israel was made with fewer than expected participants, though the experience of those pilgrims affirmed the basic thesis that pilgrimage is a valuable tool for Christians to develop a stronger sense of identity. An unintended benefit has been that the process prompted the writer to reflect more creatively on how to communicate the congregation‘s identity to a broader audience. Specifically, this resulted in a series of sermons on the name St. John‘s Evangelical Protestant Church, a series widely appreciated by members and friends of the congregation alike. Aforementioned circumstances will dictate whether or not the sequence of pilgrimages can be completed.
Theological Mentor: Kurt Fredrickson, PhD
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Richter, John, "Pilgrimage: Place and Remembrance in Spiritual Formation" (2013). Doctor of Ministry Projects. 107.