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The goal of this project is to lay foundations at St. Matthias Episcopal Church for a new adult educational ministry that designs a contextualized pathway for spiritual growth, train lay leaders, and initiate small groups. The purpose is to deepen community and cultivate spiritual maturity among the church’s members. Particular attention is given to the social-emotional dimensions of Christian maturity, with reflection on both the classical call to “love God and neighbor” and the current contributions of developmental psychology toward an understanding of human and Christian maturity.

St. Matthias Episcopal Church is an historic church in Whittier, California, seeking renewal after years of declining attendance and morale. The church’s seasons of growth and decline correlate largely with those of the urban Uptown Whittier location in which it is set. This paper traces those seasons of growth and decline, reflecting on the current challenges for renewal faced by the church and its new rector, Father William Garrison.

A pilot small group worked with Father Garrison to achieve these foundational aims over a period of twelve to eighteen months. Part one of this paper considers the communities of Whittier and St. Matthias, naming some of the hopeful signs of renewal evident in recent years. Part two asserts that the social-emotional dimension is an often underdeveloped aspect of Christian discipleship. It also reflects on what a vision and pathway for cultivating Christian maturity would look like in the theologically diverse context of St. Matthias.

Part three shares the results from the pilot small group. The church’s encouraging progress is summarized toward: designing a growth pathway, shifting congregational culture, deepening bonds of community, launching new groups, and training new lay leaders. Remaining challenges and future work to be done in the years ahead are also briefly considered.

Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)

First Advisor

Matthews, Keith

Document Type





developmental psychology, Episcopal, St. Matthias, relational, maturity, small groups, developmental, Christian maturity, social-emotional, life of Jesus, Kohlberg, Fowler, Gilligan, Erikson, Whittier


Biblical Studies | Christianity | Developmental Psychology | Family, Life Course, and Society | History of Christianity | Jewish Studies | Practical Theology | Religious Education | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social Psychology | Social Psychology and Interaction | Sociology of Religion


This paper reflects on a vision for Christian maturity that engages the contributions of the field of developmental psychology. It reflects on the life of Jesus, from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood and eventually death, as it expresses common developmental phases seen in various theorists (e.g. Kohlberg, Erikson, Fowler, Gilligan). It articulates a vision of Christian maturity that takes seriously the social-emotional and natural developmental phases of human development.

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November 2018

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