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"I Am A Christian": Christianity, Community and Culture at the UR

Aim, scope and methodology


Aim and scope

College: the four (sometimes five, and even the occasional six)-year journey of discovery. Beyond our burning desire to learn about Bakhtin's poetics of the novel, the Cuban missile crissis, mitosis and meiosis, and the conjugations of the Spanish subjunctive, one question in particular pervades and lingers, driving each student to ask him/herself, "Who am I?"

One voice - at times audible but more often imperceptible - responds to this question of identity with: "I am a Christian." It is a voice unbound by ethnicity, gender, year (age), upbringing and scoial class. This project, then, looks behind that voice on both an individual and a group level, focusing on the Christian organizations on campus and the students involved in them.

On a pragmatic note, Christianity becomes localized within specific social and cultural environments. In this particular setting, the context encompasses the university campus and the ethnically/racially affiliated student fellowships within it. Thus, the two main questions propelling my project are:

  1. What role and function does religion - specifically Protestant Christianity - have in the lives of college students?
  2. How does ethnicity influence the forms of Christianity and the nature of the Christian fellowships?

There are five Protestant Christian fellowships at the UR:

  • ACF (Agape Christian Fellowship)
  • BASIC (Brothers and Sisters In Christ)
  • IV (InterVarsity)
  • IWC (Interdenominational worship Community)
  • PCC (Protestant Christian Community)

My focus rests primarily on ACF, IV and IWC, although I conducted interviews with members of all five fellowships. My reasons for narrowing the focus is that PCC, although Protestant, is the least evangelical of the five and thus noticeably different in its idea and focus of Christianity, while BASIC is the smallest fellowship, and has many members who attend the other campus fellowships as well.

Ultimately, then, this is a study of Protestant Christian fellowships at a particular campus (the University of Rochester), and at a particular time (spring 1999). Thus this research captures the voices of these student communities, and of the individuals within them, who, without compromising their great diversity, are still able to say in a unified voice, "I am a Christian."







Methodology

As my project concerns Christianity on this campus, my research is primarily directed twoards the campus fellowships. However, I also consulted university faculty and library research in order to provide a better historical and theoretical framework. All of my data collection comes from the following sources:
  • approximately ten interviews with students from every fellowship
  • questionnaires given to sample groups of about fifteen students within the three focal groups (ACF, IV, IWC)
  • participant-observation of the fellowship nights, Bible studies and worship services of the three groups
  • interviews with pastors with ethnic congregations/backgrounds as well as those who oversee the fellowships: Pastor Tom Muratore, Bishop Parris, Reverend Torréz, Chaplain Gregory
  • interviews with professors: Joyce Middleton (English professor and African-American literature scholar), Curt Cadorette (Religion professor and Catholic priest in South American and local Hispanic parishes)
  • research in journals, articles, and books regarding anything about culture and Christianity and religion on university campuses



· Interviews



· Questionnaires

This is to get broader, group-based responses for more general perspectives which would otherwise be impossible from personal interviews.

  1. Year
  2. Do you regularly attend these fellowship/church meetings?
  3. How are you involved with this group? ie. What role do you have in this fellowship/community?
  4. Is this group a priority for you?
  5. Why did you choose to join the fellowship/community?
  6. Is there anything that you particularly like about this group?
  7. Is ther anything that you particularly dislike about this group?
  8. How does this group/community meet your expectations or needs?
  9. How does this group fail to meet any of your expectations and/or needs?
  10. Are you involved in any other clubs/groups/activities on campus? If so, which ones?