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Title: Co-opting community : an ethnographic study of Alpha's attempts to foster urban religious belonging
Author: McBey, David
ISNI:       0000 0004 6346 3838
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2017
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Sociologists have been interested in how individuals in modern society are bound to each other since the inception of the discipline. The 'community question' has seen three broad paradigms in this time. The 'community lost' perspective argues that community belonging and modernity are incompatible. In contrast, 'community saved' research suggest that the nature of modernity has made the benefits of community more salient than ever. Finally, the 'community transformed' approach posits that community has metamorphosed to become more relevant to the modern world. This thesis seeks to explore the form that communities may take in contemporary urban settings, and investigate the processes that underlie their continuation. To this end, an ethnographic case study approach was employed to examine an organisation that appears to both offer and exploit community – Alpha. Alpha is an eleven-week catechetical course that seeks to integrate non-Christians into the Christian community. Identifying and employing three 'ideal type' categories of Alpha guests, I examine the methods that the organisation uses in its efforts to attract new members, keep them attending, and integrate them into the community of the church. I argue that Alpha offers three distinct forms of community, with each appealing to different ideal type guests. The first is a gateway to the larger community of the local congregation. The second is a low-commitment community-in-itself. Finally, Alpha represents a community that offers material benefits to members. Alpha suggests that communities can be successful in attracting members by creating hybridised, multifaceted forms of belonging but that fostering long-term commitment is more problematic. This supports the 'community transformed' position that argues that the forms of belonging that were dominant in pre- and early modernity are less salient today.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Alpha courses (Christian education) ; Communities ; Conversion