Engaged Scholars Studying Congregations

A Program of Mentoring, Networking, and Study Support

Supported by Lilly Endowment, Inc.

What sorts of projects can be proposed?

Any topic touching on the practices of congregational life in North America is welcome. The focus may include any of the ministries, missions, education, worship, or practical administration involved in congregational life. The project proposed may involve whatever methods are appropriate to the Fellow’s discipline and the project at hand – e.g., an historical study, theological engagement, ethnography, pedagogical or clinical programs, interviews, and the like. The only constraint is that projects must involve some direct engagement with on-the-ground congregational life.

Are these research grants?

They are grants that provide support for research and study activities, but the program involves more than that. It also includes intentional mentoring and network building and two summer consultations.

What is the time frame?

The grant period begins 1 June 2014 and concludes 31 December 2015, with final reports due no later than 1 February 2016.

How much are the awards?

Fellows receive $9,000 in each of the two summers (2014 and 2015). These funds may be used for any expenses related to the study being proposed, including summer salary support. An additional $2,000 is available during the nineteen month grant period to be used for travel. These funds are intended to enhance the networking capacity of the fellow and should be used for activities such as visits by the assigned coach, consulting with another fitting conversation partner, or attendance at professional meetings.

Who should apply?

Applications are encouraged from scholars in a variety of disciplines – from practical theology to the social sciences, from history to biblical studies and contextual education. Applicants should have completed their graduate work and be placed in a professional position at the time of application. We especially encourage early-career scholars to apply, but will consider applications from persons who have recently been tenured.

I live outside North America.  Can I apply?

Yes, but your project must involve congregations in North America.

What is the Congregational Studies Team?

For nearly thirty years, the Congregational Studies Project Team has led the way in inviting scholars to engage in serious, rigorous research on congregational life and encouraging religious leaders to draw on academic research to enrich their ability to provide effective leadership to local religious communities. Together, members of the Team produced both the original Handbook for Congregational Studies (1986) and its successor, Studying Congregations: A New Handbook (1998). Current members of the Team are Nancy Ammerman (Boston University), Anthea Butler (University of Pennsylvania), Bill McKinney Pacific School of Religion [retired]), Omar McRoberts (University of Chicago), Larry Mamiya (Vassar College) Gerardo Marti (Davidson College), Joyce Mercer (Virginia Theological Seminary), James Nieman (Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago), Bob Schreiter (Catholic Theological Union) and Steve Warner (University of Illinois at Chicago).

What kind of mentoring is involved?

Fellows are paired with a “coach,” either from the Team or someone invited to participate in the project specifically to work with the fellow. With long experience in studying faith communities, these coaches help fellows to hone their research skills, add new ideas to their analytical repertoire, and lay firm foundations for their careers.

What are the summer consultations all about?

The summer consultations allow the entire Team, along with cohorts of fellows and guest coaches, to participate in a mutual mentoring process. During each summer consultation, fellows have a significant block of focused attention given not only to their work, but also to how their work grows out of their vocation and engages communities of faith. Both formal presentations and informal interactions during these events are important opportunities for reflection and learning. Attendance at these two meetings (one each June) is required, and all expenses are covered. The summer consultation for the first year of the 2014-2015 cohort is set for May 29-June 2, 2014 in Philadelphia.

Why networking? How will that work?

The mentoring relationship and the summer consultations are themselves designed to facilitate building a broader and more interdisciplinary network to support the work of fellows during and beyond the program. Past cohorts of fellows have included people working in history, ethnic studies, public health, anthropology, sociology, and theology—across religious traditions as varied as the American religious landscape. Fellows have connected with each other and with the Team, and through those connections outward into religious and academic arenas with which they might not otherwise have had contact.

What do I have to produce?

At the end of the fellowship period, fellows provide a report on their fellowship activities and accomplishments, including an evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the program. They must also show significant progress toward a set of products they and their mentor agree is most appropriate to their position and career goals. This will likely include an article to be published in a place appropriate to their academic guild, but it will also include some combination of (a) an account of their study of congregations that is oriented toward a broad public audience of leaders and others concerned about the well-being of congregational life, (b) a brief essay on the challenges of engaged scholarship, (c) products to be shared on the Congregational Studies website, and/or (d) a syllabus or other resources for instructional use.

What if I’ve never written for a popular audience?

Conversations among mentors and fellows at the summer consultation include attention to expanding avenues of publication and consulting, exploring how research finds its way into the hands of teachers and religious leaders through general audience periodicals, conferences, the web, and the like.

What is the application process?

Complete applications are now due no later than 15 February 2014. To be considered complete, applications must include the following four materials: (1) A brief essay (not more than five double-spaced pages) detailing the particular project you wish to undertake and the way that study will grow out of and affect local communities of faith. (2) A budget outlining expected uses for the $18,000 research stipend. This may either be direct research or study expenses, summer salary replacement(s), and/or other materials or activities that will enhance the goals of your work. (3) A copy of your curriculum vitae. (4) The names and contact information for two persons you have asked to write letters of support. One of these should be from someone such as a dean or department chair who can express the endorsement of your institution for your participation in this program. Applicants are responsible for ensuring that these letters themselves are sent directly by your recommenders directly to the project director by the deadline.

Send all materials to engagedscholars@hartsem.edu. With the exception of letters of support, electronic submission using e-mail attachment is the only accepted form of submission. Letters of support must appear on institutional letterhead and may either be sent as a scanned e-mail attachment or mailed by recommenders directly to:

Engaged Scholars Fellowship Program
c/o William McKinney
PO Box 359
West Hyannisport, MA  02672

All materials must be submitted by 15 February 2014. Successful candidates will be announced no later than 1 April 2014.