Concordia University, Rhoda Schuler

St. Paul, Minnesota

To analyze the field research data on the adult catechumenate in the Lutheran church and to offer workshops that help pastors and congregations envision an adult catechumenal model that could transform their congregations.

Researcher(s): Dr. Rhoda Schuler
Academic Discipline: Both: Liturgical Studies; Schuler: Historical Theology; Burreson: Systematic Theology
Other Researcher(s): Concordia University – St. Paul, MN and Dr. Kent Burreson, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO 

Project Summary

Shifting from our plan to host regional in-person conferences on the adult catechumenate, we pivoted to online conferences led by the parish pastors of the congregations we researched in our VWG-WC. Doing deep analysis of our field research has enriched these conferences, and through interactions with the four pastors, we have gained new insights into the missional mindset created within the congregations by each one’s distinctive and robust adult faith formation process. 

What questions have you asked about worship in the past year? List at least two questions that have generated theological reflection and have helped shape your project.

  • How can we write/present persuasively about the synergy between liturgical worship and a “missional mindset”? 
  • Can or should sacramental worship, so embodied in character, be offered virtually during a pandemic? If yes, how? Should a public catechumenate oriented toward the sacraments be offered virtually? If yes, how? 
  • How can adult faith formation, and the vigorous congregational worship life and ritual that surrounds it, take shape in different congregational/social contexts?

In what ways has or will your project strengthen the worship life of congregations?

Our parish leaders spoke eloquently of ways that their catechumenate had prepared their congregations for life during a pandemic, illustrating the staying power that robust worship provides to Christians in a time of disorienting crisis. 

Our conferences have moved some pastors & other church leaders to think holistically about adult faith formation & a church’s worship life. The conferences have provided a glimpse into the synergy between congregational life, worship, & a faith formation process. Congregations can best discern how to create & foster such synergy. 

Faith formation aims to nurture aptitude in ritual. By such nurturing, catechumens become willing and aware participants in congregational worship, ritual, and life together. 

What have been your greatest challenges (or challenging opportunities)

The “greatest challenge” and “challenging opportunity” is Covid-19. 

  • Moving from in-person to online conferences prevented mutual conversation & hands-on ritual learning opportunities, yet we gained wider participation from across the country.
  • The pandemic has exacerbated the need for focused time to analyze our research interviews. We are learning the process and improving our pace, but it requires both quantity and quality of time. 
  • A great opportunity may come through recognition that “we are not peddling a program but describing a process.” The process of adult faith formation might be fostered best by a mentoring model rather than attending a conference. Such a mentoring model may work particularly well in rural congregations.

What advice would you like to share with other Teacher-Scholars? 

  • Return to your original grant proposal when you feel unmoored from your project. It was accepted for funding because your research questions and method for exploring those questions were sound.
  • There is life for the researcher & research beyond the grant.
  • Keep in mind that this is scholarship for the sake of the Church, not for career advancement. The latter can be a beneficial by-product, but the ultimate reason for all the time and effort it takes is to further the Kingdom of God.
  • “Call upon [God’s name] in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks” (M. Luther, Small Catechism, explanation to Second Commandment, which, in the Lutheran, RC & Orthodox division of the 10 C's, is “You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain.”)

What products will emerge from your project?

  • An article describing our research and initial findings will be published in the peer-reviewed journal Worship in late 2022.
  • We will lead an online continuing ed event through Concordia Seminary and are the “featured workshop”: 
  • The analysis of interviews from our first grant are bearing fruit for a future book publication. We have a rough outline for the table of contents and a desire to see it through to publication.