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Pastoral Imagination study funded by the Louisville Institute

Campbell-Reed and Scharen will continue an unprecedented national, ecumenical and longitudinal study of ministers in US begun in 2009

NEW YORK — The Learning Pastoral Imagination Project (LPI) announces new funding from the Louisville Institute. The $30,000 Research Grant supports an unprecedented national, ecumenical and longitudinal study of pastoral ministry in the United States. Since 2009 the LPI study has been following a cohort of 50 graduates from ten seminaries into their careers as ministers, pastors, priests, chaplains and community/religious leaders.

Project co-directors, Eileen Campbell-Reed and Christian Scharen, will conduct a fourth round of qualitative interviews with ministers who reach the ten-year mark past seminary graduation. The study focuses on how the embodied, relational, spiritual and integrative practice of ministry is learned across time.

“The ten-year mark is crucial for learning how participants are evolving and growing in their ministry leadership, especially in this time of changed religious practice due to the global pandemic.” says Scharen, pastor of St. Lydia’s Dinner Church in Brooklyn, New York. The study will also suggest insights into the pandemic of racial injustice.

 “I am thrilled to gather our study participants once again,” says Campbell-Reed, visiting associate professor of pastoral theology and care at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York. “Each day-long interview, even in Zoom, is like stepping onto holy ground.” All 2021-22 study interviews will be conducted virtually.

Union Theological Seminary will be home base for this phase of the LPI study. Union’s Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean, Pamela Cooper-White says, “The LPI Project is the first ethnographic study of what ministers really do, how they feel about it, and how they keep going with renewed energy and creativity.”

Scores of theological schools currently make use of Scharen and Campbell-Reed’s 2016 Learning Pastoral Imagination: A Five-Year Report on How New Ministers Learn in Practice. The study presents findings from the first three rounds of interviewing, building on the concept of “pastoral imagination,” coined in the late 1990s by Craig Dykstra.

Matthew Floding, Director of Ministerial Formation, at Duke Divinity School, says Scharen and Campbell-Reed have “proven to be our best and most reliable teachers and source of information” about the cultivation of pastoral imagination. Floding says, “Most theological field educators are not only aware of this important research but … incorporate its vocabulary into their programs.”

At City Seminary of New York, Provost, Maria Liu Wong says, “The LPI study sheds light on how we might continue to grow and deepen our practice of becoming wise together.”

In May Campbell-Reed will publish the first book from the LPI study, Pastoral Imagination: Bringing the Practice of Ministry to Life. In late 2018 she launched Three Minute Ministry Mentor (3MMM), and as host, Campbell-Reed shares LPI study findings, stories and wisdom.

“Every episode of 3MMM includes big ministry topics, stories to unpack them, supportive resources, and questions for reflection,” says Campbell-Reed. Pastoral Imagination brings together LPI study findings with the structure of 3MMM. The book can be pre-ordered at Fortress Press, Amazon and Indie Bound.

Participants in the LPI study live in all regions of the U.S. and include people who identify as:

  •  men and women (in equal numbers, with no self-acknowledged non-binary or transgender persons)
  • Black, Latino/a, Asian, and white
  • straight, queer, single, partnered and divorced
  • affiliated with Mainline, Evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, and Pentecostal congregations
  • serving in ministry settings including immigrant, sub/urban, rural, military, healthcare, higher education, and non-profit organizations
  • working as chaplains, pastors, bishops, university ministers, activists, and volunteers.

Full Story here.


Dr. Eileen Campbell-Reed
Learning Pastoral Imagination Project
Union Theological Seminary
[email protected]
(615) 510-1510

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.

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