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Title:Wesleyan ways of speaking: Transforming experience through Sunday School talk
Author(s):Martinson, Jay Russell
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Miller, Peggy J.
Department / Program:Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Religion, General
Speech Communication
Education, Educational Psychology
Education, Religious
Abstract:Studying a small Wesleyan Church in central Illinois, this study applies the ethnography of speaking (after Hymes, 1974) methodological framework in order to describe relationships between culture and communication as they relate to religious faith maintenance. Religious transformation research is reviewed, with particular attention to the various roles of talk involved in adopting and maintaining sacred plausibility structures (or theodicies).
A brief history of ideas is offered regarding the birth of the Holiness Movement in 19th Century America. Distinctive features of the Holiness Movement ideology are discussed. These include belief in not only initial conversion, but also a second work of grace referred to as sanctification. The religious experience of sanctification includes the formation of a highly active and personal relationship with Christ. Highlighted is the critical role that oral testimonies of believers have played in the articulation of this religious experience and the subsequent growth of this Movement which has branched off into many Holiness denominations including The Wesleyan Church. A key element of this particular religious institution is its commitment toward helping members live transformed lives and attain sanctification.
Following the theoretical and historical review, the following research question is given: How exactly does the church serve the role of helping members become and remain transformed selves? The methods for this study include the following: 17 months of in-group participant observation, interviews, and the analysis of tape-recorded & transcribed adult Sunday School classes.
The data reveals lengthy, weekly periods of "sharing" in which Sunday School class members take turns sharing answers to prayer and requesting prayer. Through this, all members are given the opportunity to transform their mundane week's experiences into the realm of the spiritual. Newer converts seemingly are given the opportunity to learn how to be Christians through learning to engage in appropriate discourses of faith. This particular class studied is compared to a foreign language class, in which members receive firm direction, frequent encouragement, and ample opportunity to engage the collective testimony that God is actively at work in the lives of believers. Conclusions are drawn regarding personal transformation of self through talk, the relationship between communication and culture, and of reflexive ethnographic methodology.
Issue Date:1994
Rights Information:Copyright 1994 Martinson, Jay Russell
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9503267
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9503267

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