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Title: The Holy Spirit and Christian community : a case study in theology and practice
Author: Davies, Sarah Frances
ISNI:       0000 0004 9355 2559
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2020
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Contemporary Christian communities often cite a scriptural basis as the justification for their shape and nature. Despite this foundation, the needs and tendencies of humanity and culture are often institutionalized and prioritized to the detriment of community effectiveness and mission. Based within the field of practical theology, this project explores the nature and possibility for Christian community when Christian community incorporates a pneumatological core that organically informs individual values, practices and relationships within and beyond the community. This organic constitution is in contrast to the contemporary top-down approach of instituting systems-based ‘one size fits all’ programs and processes. The purpose of this research is to propose enhancements to these systems-based approaches by incorporating the essential elements of the Spirit’s work such that the community becomes increasingly effective. I follow Fiddes’ integrated method in ecclesiology beginning with a case study of my experience of community formation using the Activate Small Group System within my local congregation. These experiences are dialogically challenged by contemporary and biblical community practices in order to propose a pneumatologically-shaped organic community model that serves to identify enhancements to the Activate framework. I conclude the study by proposing a series of enhancements to Activate that should be tested and evaluated for their capacity to improve community effectiveness. I argue that community is in reality a composition of numerous unique relationships between the Spirit and each individual community participant. In turn, these Spirit-shaped relationships inform the relational fabric amongst participants and between participants and their neighbours. From this Spirit-shaped organic composition, I then explore the nature and potential for fellowship and mission for participants and for the overall community. Finally, I consider the core leadership dynamics required to effectively support the community, its identity and mission. At the conclusion of this research, I suggest that if the community is to become truly effective, the role and contribution of the Holy Spirit is not only necessary, but also far more significant than is typically accepted within western Christian community culture. In fact, if there is a single critical responsive behavior within community formation, it is the continual and ongoing yielding by every participant to the direction of the Spirit who creates and sustains a fluid community relational expression that continually presents itself as a symbol of life and truth to its neighbours. Moreover, it is only through, and because of the Spirit’s engagement with these grass-roots layers, that the community can fulfill its potential of becoming an effective witness to the Gospel.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available