Ecclesia and virtue: a practical theological investigation of urban congregations caring for the poor
MetadataShow full item record
This project examines and critically reflects on the practices of care for the poor by three Protestant congregations in affluent urban neighborhoods in the metropolitan Boston area. The project is a practical theological investigation of congregational practices of care of the poor using Richard Osmer’s practical theological method. This derived from participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and document analysis; interpretation and analysis of the practices; theological and ethical evaluation of the practices through what Osmer calls “wise judgment” of the practices; and application of the practical wisdom learned from the three congregations. Ministries of care for the poor by congregations in affluent American neighborhoods are often sparse. The three congregations deviate from the norm by offering robust and sustainable ministries of care. This project examines the theological and ethical motivation embodied and enacted in those ministries and asks what practical wisdom they have to offer other congregations. In doing so, the project situates its analysis within wider theological and ethical understandings of Christian care for the poor, especially in urban contexts. The project’s theological and ethical interpretation and judgment are derived from the framework of virtue ethics in dialogue with contextual and ecclesiologically focused theologies. The ministries of care for the poor in the three congregations demonstrate the overlap of pastoral care, mission work, and evangelism. Also, their ministries of care for the poor illuminate the importance of the work of the laity in Christian public ministry, and how presently the laity is underserved by theological education. Practical application of the wisdom rising from the three congregations highlights the importance of lay pastoral care techniques, discipleship development, and witness practices.