From the Main Desk

Since the fall of 2014, the staff of Practical Matters has focused on two questions.  First, how can we make the scholarship of the journal accessible in more user-friendly ways?  Second, what can we do to make the content of the journal representative of the world’s religious traditions?  This issue—“Sacred Places, Sacred Journeys”—represents our fulsome response to both of these questions.

Over the last year, we’ve undertaken a full redesign of our website which allows readers to access our content in multiple ways.  The menu bar now has a “Browse” function that allows you to search easily by issue, by section of the journal, and even to look at only the peer reviewed items in our collection.  The search button at the bottom of the page makes keyword searches of our articles available for the first time.  For those interested in viewing issues in a bound-journal format, select “Issues” under the “Browse” dropdown to find full issues downloadable in a more traditional form.

Expanding reflection on religious practice beyond its traditional confines has meant making intentional efforts to connect with scholars in a plurality of fields. We’ve reached out to folks in religious studies and theology, of course, but also in architecture, urban planning, tourism studies, and ecology, among others.  The first fruits of those efforts may be seen here in this issue.   Committed to the belief that discussions about religious practice flourish with a diversity of voices, we encourage submissions from all scholars whose work contributes to the knowledge of religious practice.

At this point, a third question arises:  what’s next for the journal?  Let me offer three brief answers.  First, we want make better use of the online format of the journal.  In contrast to paper publications, online journals have the ability to incorporate digital media, and thus the scenes and sounds of religious practice.  Earlier iterations of the journal made pioneering efforts on the inclusion of videography in a scholarly journal (for example, see Making a Mandala and A Trip to the Spring).  We want to build upon their work by encouraging scholarship that employs an array of media.  Second, we want to include more first-hand reports of contemporary religious practices.  The section “Practicing Matters” provides a space for accounts of new, renewed, or little known practices.  Finally, we have two excellent and timely themes for our upcoming issues: the link between economics and practice (Issue 10) and migrations of both people and practices (Issue 11).

Special thanks are due to two individuals whose effort has made the redesign of the website possible.  Practical Matters staff member Layla Karst led the charge on the design, development, and migration to a new website.  Anandi Salinas of the Emory Center for Digital Scholarship provided expert guidance and technical assistance without which the new site wouldn’t have nearly as many bells and whistles.  My thanks to both of these colleagues for their extraordinary efforts and patience.

By Matthew Lawrence Pierce
Matthew Pierce is Managing Editor of Practical Matters Journal and a doctoral candidate in Emory University's Graduate Division of Religion.