Hope College, Kate Finley

Holland, Michigan

To explore how public church practices, including sermons, corporate prayer, and other worship practices reflect various understandings and interpretations of mental disorders and to construct a practically applicable online resource that will enable congregations to be more inclusive of those who experience mental disorder and enriched by the unique perspectives they embody.

Project Summary

We will explore Christian views of the emotions (e.g. joy, sadness) and emotional stability and instability because of their role in shaping views of mental disorder (e.g. depression, bipolar disorder). Specifically, we examine how these views are communicated or bolstered intentionally or unintentionally through church practice (i.e. sermons, corporate prayer, worship) and how they can be informed by empirical research and firsthand accounts of experiences of mental disorder. We will analyze past research and conduct an additional study and use our insights to construct practically applicable, online resources for congregations to enable them to be more inclusive of and enriched by the experiences of those with mental disorder. 

What questions about worship and your discipline will be guiding your project?

  • How are views of the emotions, emotional stability and instability communicated intentionally or unintentionally through worship? 
  • How can worship practices be challenged or informed by empirical research on and personal experiences of mental disorder? 
  • What are some of the philosophical and theological implications of the variation in emotionality, emotional stability found in those who experience mental disorder? 
  • To what extent are these views of the emotions and mental disorder culturally specific to Christian churches in America? 

How do you envision this project will strengthen the worship life of congregations?

Through this project, we will construct tools which will help congregations to be more inclusive of and enriched by the experiences of those who with mental disorder. It will strengthen the worship lives of these congregations by increasing awareness of the messages conveyed (or not conveyed) through their worship practices about the emotions, experiences of mental disorder, and their theological implications. 

What do you expect might be your greatest challenges (or challenging opportunities)?

It will be challenging to engage with the suffering due to experiences of mental disorder as well as the sometimes harmful effects of Christian congregations' tendencies to either avoid addressing these topics or doing so in stigmatizing and inaccurate ways. 

What do you hope to learn from the Grants Event and other grant recipients?

I hope to learn about the creative ways in which other grant recipients are challenging and expanding worship practices - and thinking through the theological implications of these worship practices.