Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Andrew Wymer and Kristen Daley Mosier

Evanston, Illinois

To engage the baptismal practices of diverse Christian communities in regions impacted by toxic water, and to construct a theoretical and practical vision of baptismal solidarity for the broader Church.

Researcher(s): Kristen Daley Mosier and Andrew Wymer 
Academic Discipline: Sacramental theory and practice

Project Summary

Utilizing ethnographic research methods, this project engaged the baptismal practices of diverse Christian communities in Flint, Michigan (MI), the site of a well-documented case of toxic water. Reflecting on these realities we worked with community partners in Flint to construct a community-based theoretical and practical vision of baptismal solidarity. 

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 have communities of faith in Flint, Michigan creatively adapted their baptismal practices amidst the toxic manifestations of racism and classism in the water itself?  

How might the insights of activist clergy members in Flint help us to recognize Christian baptism as a resource that draws all Christians into solidarity with communities such as Flint that have been violently impacted by ecological racism? 

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

This project provides resources and insights for communities of faith outside of Flint that invite increased awareness of the ongoing crisis in Flint and its liturgical implications. Additionally, this project provides a strength-based, communal ethic connecting baptism to ecological racism and inviting solidarity.  

Our community partners comprised of pastors in Flint also report being encouraged and renewed by this project. They report appreciation of the opportunity to reflect together on baptism in strength-based ways that affirm creative, communal insights. Additional data about the impact of this project on the communities of faith represented by our community partners in Flint will be gathered over the final weeks of the grant. 

What have been your greatest challenges (or challenging opportunities)

One of our greatest challenges has been conducting in-person, ethnographic research during a pandemic when gatherings were strictly limited and with communities that may or may not have become digitally-accessible. This limited utilization of traditional, in-person methods of making connections with pastors in Flint.  

We faced the challenge of researching as outsiders. Over the life of our project our methodology continued to shift in both subtle and substantial ways to become more community-based. Through the CERB of the Community Based Organization Partners (CBOP) of the Healthy Flint Research Coordinating Center and conversation with community partners we identified ways to refocus the project to have further positive impact on Flint. 

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

We found that it was important as outsiders in a new community that we do significant pre-work prior to our visit to identify key partners and organizations. As we made such connections and spent time in the community, we were able to extend our reach and subsequently the relationships we were able to form and the data we were able to gather. 

We found that adaptivity was key in doing research in this time of COVID-19. We also found that it was crucial to be aware of the broader political climate particularly around the presidential election cycle.  

When doing research on issues of justice amidst communities targeted for violence, sensitivity and awareness are essential. These should be embedded into the methodology of such projects. 

What products will emerge from your project?

We are currently planning on sharing our findings in two peer-reviewed articles that we expect to submit for review this summer.