Support for the journal is provided by the Initiative in Religious Practices and Practical Theology (a project of the Lilly Endowment Inc.), the Emory University libraries, and the Laney Graduate School.
Pushing the boundaries of both the study of religious practices and the discipline of practical theology, Practical Matters publishes a variety of media and genres, illuminating each of these areas and drawing connections between them.
Howell Belser received her B.A. in English from Emory University in 2002 and her M.T.S from Pacific School of Religion in 2004. She has returned to Emory and is a doctoral student in the American Religious Cultures course of study of the Graduate Division of Religion. Her academic interests include lived religion, popular culture, gender/queer studies, utopian fiction, performance theory, social change movements, and pedagogy. Her current work explores the transformative potential of queer utopian science fiction and subversive queer performance art.
Letitia Campbell is a doctoral student in the Ethics and Society course of study of the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University. She is interested in the history of Christian social ethics, social and political theory, and the new rhetoric of empire. Before beginning doctoral studies, Campbell lived in New York City, where she was part of the program staff at Auburn Theological Seminary and taught at Manhattan College and Columbia University. She has worked as a newspaper reporter, and she brings experience in faith-based organizing and anti-racism facilitation to her scholarly work. She has also worked in youth, young adult, and campus ministry, and is a candidate for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Courtney T. Goto is a doctoral candidate in the Person, Community and Religious Life course of study of the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University. Her dissertation, entitled "Artistic Play: Seeking the God of the Unexpected," sets forth a practical theology of play through art, and explores issues of body, imagination, teaching and learning for adults through two case studies. In the first case, Goto investigates how participants of InterPlay, based in Oakland, California, are creating selves by engaging in improvisational theater, movement, and vocal music. In the second case, Goto compares the ways in which a Japanese-American congregation in Sacramento, California discovers connections between faith and culture through play, Japanese artifacts, and aesthetics. Performance theory and object-relations aesthetics serve as theoretical lenses.
David King is a doctoral student in the Historical Studies course of study of the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University. Trained as a scholar of American religions, he employs ethnographic and historical methods to explore the complexity of twentieth-century American evangelicalism, depicting its diverse practices and ideologies. King's current work examines the evolving understandings of mission and public policy within evangelical non-governmental organizations. As an ordained minister, King is also committed to researching and responding to issues of practice within local communities of faith. His recent work has followed the formation of a Hispanic storefront congregation, as well as the short-term missions program of a suburban megachurch.
Amy Levad is a doctoral candidate in the Ethics and Society course of study whose research explores religious efforts to reform criminal justice systems in the US. Her dissertation, entitled "The Moral Imagination of Restorative Justice," places the intellectual history of virtue ethics in dialogue with ethnographic research in six restorative justice programs in Colorado. Levad's dissertation also explores how participation in restorative justice practices can change the ways communities imagine and respond to the ethical challenges that arise in the aftermath of crime. This work fits within Levad's larger projects of investigating the contributions of religious traditions to criminal justice theories and practices and the role of moral imagination in responding creatively to other social problems.
Lerone Martin is a PhD candidate at Emory in the Graduate Division of Religion's course of study in American Religious Cultures. His research interests include the history of American religion and culture and twentieth-century African American cultural practices. Martin's dissertation, entitled "Selling to the Souls of Black Folk," is an historical analysis of religious commodification and mass mediated religion in the United States and its relationship to capitalist consumerism. Desiring to utilize education for empowerment, Martin has become involved in various community education projects, serving as an educational consultant for continuing education and recidivism at New York's Sing Sing State Prison and teaching at Georgia's Metro State Prison.
Samira Mehta is a doctoral candidate in the American Religious Cultures course of study. Her dissertation focuses on Christian-Jewish interfaith families in the late twentieth century United States, a project in which she explores the dynamics of familial religious practice and experience through the lens of cultural history. Mehta's project translates conversations about pluralism in American religion to familial religious practices, and examines the cultural construction of Christian-Jewish interfaith families through a close examination of popular culture. The ethnographic portion of her dissertation involves interviewing families about their own religious practices, with particular analytic attention paid to areas of innovation. Her project also explores dynamics of community outreach to interfaith families.
A PhD candidate in the American Religious Cultures course of study, Donna S. Mote is an ethnographer of religious cultures and practices. The focus of her dissertation project is the religious culture of Shingleroof Camp Meeting in Henry County, Georgia, and she is currently at work on a documentary film about Shingleroof. Much of Mote's work involves identifying and analyzing implicit practices of ancestor veneration in US contexts. She places such practices in conversation with more explicit ancestor-venerating practices in non-US religious cultures, such as that of Obon, the Buddhist Festival of the Dead, in Japan. Animating her work are a focus on the interplay of practices, memory, bodies, and place and an interest in new approaches to religious places and spaces.
An ordained Episcopal priest with practical experience in youth ministry and Christian education, Robyn Neville is a doctoral student in the Historical Studies course of study. Her research interests include contemplative theology and bodily practices in historical Christian monastic traditions, as well as the role of the exemplar in Celtic and Anglo-Saxon hagiography. Neville also studies the functions of gender and sexuality in medieval Christian institutions, and the development of new pedagogical practices in the teaching of historical theology in seminary contexts. A candidate for Emory's Graduate Certificate in Medieval Studies, Neville is a concentrator in the Initiative in Religious Practices and Practical Theology.
Brendan Ozawa-de Silva is a doctoral student in West and South Asian Religions in the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University. His studies focus on the scientific exploration of meditation and the emerging dialogue between cognitive neuroscience and Buddhist contemplative theory and practice. Three main aims direct his work. First, Ozawa-de Silva hopes to develop a greater understanding of mind/body interaction through the interdisciplinary and comparative study of contemplative practices. Second, he seeks to discover new clinical interventions, particularly for the treatment of mental illness. Finally, Ozawa-de Silva works to establish curricula that facilitate the cultivation of emotional and social intelligence.
John Senior is a doctoral candidate in the Ethics and Society course of study and a concentrator in the Initiative in Religious Practices and Practical Theology. His dissertation explores the construction of Christian identity and moral agency in and through forms of political activism. Senior's interests also include the relationship between theological education in the seminary context and diverse practices of ministry.
Katy Shrout is a doctoral candidate in American religious history and culture. Her dissertation addresses the role of the sacred in the commercialization of white wedding practices, 1840-1970. Drawing upon books, diaries, advertisements, church materials, films, photographs and material artifacts, she investigates how the wedding has served as a site of sacred significance for women, depending upon and reshaping meanings derived from religious institutions and the marketplace. She is interested in what constitutes a religious practice in modernity, and how consumer culture has competed with, fed upon, and sustained American religion. Shrout also has a masters' in documentary film from Berkeley, and produced a documentary screened at the Sundance Film Festival in 2002.
Adam Ployd is a doctoral student in the Historical Studies program of Emory's Graduate Division of Religion. His research focuses on the intersection of trinitarian theology and church schism in the thought of Augustine. He holds a B.A. from Wake Forest University and an M.Div. from Candler School of Theology at Emory. Ployd is pursuing Deacon's Orders in the United Methodist Church.
Luke Whitmore is a doctoral candidate in the West and South Asian Religions course of study of Emory's Graduate Division of Religion. His dissertation, entitled "In Pursuit of Maheshvara: Understanding Kedarnath as Place and as Tirtha," is a critically and phenomenologically inflected anthropology of place focused on the Hindu pilgrimage site of Kedarnath, located high up in the north Indian Himalayas. Whitmore has studied Hebrew in Jerusalem, Greek in Athens, and Hindi and Sanskrit in India. He is particularly drawn to theorizing the relationships between place, image, narrative, deity, pilgrimage, and tourism. His other academic interests include visual culture and religion in South Asia, Jewish studies, theories of myth, the study of religion in the university, cultural geography, and the anthropologies of religion and experience.
Almeda M. Wright is a doctoral candidate in the Person, Community and Religious Life course of study of the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University. Her dissertation, entitled "Integrated-Integrating Pedagogy," offers a practical theological analysis of the spirituality of African American adolescents. Wright addresses a trend among youth to "fragment" or separate their religious convictions from taking action and responding to injustices in "non-religious" contexts. Combining an analysis of educational curricula and sermons in African American churches with interviews of African American youth, she seeks both to analyze the complexity of fragmented spirituality among African American youth and to offer pedagogical strategies that empower youth to "integrate" the various dimensions of their spirituality.
William Yoo is a doctoral student in the Historical Studies in Theology and Religion course of study at Emory University's Graduate Division of Religion. His research interests include nineteenth-century American Protestant thought toward immigration, the American foreign missionary movement, the religious history of Korean Protestants in America, and historical theology within world Christianity. He received a B.S. in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania, an M. Div. from Westminster Theological Seminary, and a Th.M from Candler School of Theology. Prior to doctoral studies, he worked in youth ministry and is currently a certified candidate for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
An ordained Baptist minister within the historic black church, Jermaine McDonald is a doctoral student in the Ethics and Society course of study in Emory's Graduate Division of Religion. He is interested in religious rhetoric within progressive/liberal U.S. political discourse and the ways in which black Baptist churches have historically and contemporarily connected church mission and liberationist ideals with public/political goals. McDonald has a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Virginia and an M.Div. from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University. Prior to doctoral studies, he worked as a web-based systems developer and as a hospital and hospice chaplain.
Jessica M. Smith is a doctoral student in the Theological Studies course of study of the GDR. Her academic interests center around feminist and womanist scholarship in contemporary Christian theology. She utilizes feminist and womanist literature, feminist theory, and post-structuralist thought as sources for her constructive theological work. Currently, she is interested in re-imagining angelic revelation as a redemptive epistemology for the transformation of self and community.
James W. McCarty III is currently a Ph.D. student in Religion (Ethics and Society) at Emory University. With concentrations in "Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding" and "Religious Practices and Practical Theology" his research is focused on religion and social change - specifically the intersection of religion, violence, and peace and the ethics of forgiveness and reconciliation. James is currently the Director of the Ethics and Servant Leadership Program at Emory's Oxford College campus. In the past he has served as a minister in the churches of Christ and has held several leadership positions in nonprofit organizations working with the poor domestically and internationally. Previously he earned a B.A. in Religion from Pepperdine University and a M.A. in Ethics from Claremont School of Theology.
Annie Hardison-Moody is a doctoral student in the Person, Community, and Religious Life course of study in the Graduate Division of Religion at Emory University. Her work navigates the intersections of religion, health and healing, particularly related to women's reproductive health and gender-based violence. She has experience in public health research and practice, which she brings to her theological scholarship. Hardison-Moody's current work is an ethnographic study of women's practices of resistance, survival and care for those who have experienced gender-based violence.