Black ministry contexts, forms, and cultures are rapidly changing—at times actively incorporating and innovating upon previous trajectories, and at times pressing forward into uncharted ‘ministry’ territories. This program facilitates cross-generational and cross-sectoral assessments of established traditions and emerging expressions of collective black faith and its relationship to social context.
- The Rev. Dr. R. Drew Smith, Henry L. Hillman Professor of Urban Ministry
The next cohort is anticipated to begin in June 2025.
Grounded in the rich and sustaining history of the Black church in the United States and attentive to liberatory movements formed in faith orientations sometimes transcending church bounds, the Intergenerational Black Church Studies Focus brings together an intergenerational cohort of ministry leaders to explore past, present, and future trajectories of Black church life. Emphasizing ecclesial pressure points, expressions of social unrest, and creative spaces generating new formulations of Black life, this focus will equip people for contemporary ministry by reaching deep within the history of traditions of the Black church while venturing out to learn from practices in design, arts, communications, and community organizing.
The Intergenerational Black Church Studies Focus assumes two distinct but intertwining streams in expressions of the Black church: ecclesial expressions of church, and a form of church expressed and experienced in larger social movements. In this focus we seek to learn about, learn from, and be formed by coordination and conflict between these two streams. We also seek to give attention to the promise and the challenge created by both cooperation and conflict within these two streams of spiritual expression. Topics to be covered will include but not be limited to these: (1) tensions between conventional and non-conventional approaches to formation and practice; (2) institutional and non-institutional constructions of whiteness; and (3) new virtual capacities for organization and communication. Instructors will include both academics and practitioners and, when possible, individuals who are both. The mentors will work with class participants to plan and design courses together in response to the experience and gifts within the group.
This cohort will meet according to the two-week January and June schedule. Some of the weeks will be in Pittsburgh and some will be at the ministry sites of participants. The focus will have two mentors who work in tandem: a faculty mentor and a practitioner mentor. In addition, a cohort facilitator will gather the cohort online every month.
Overview of historic intergenerational dynamics in a variety of institutions and movements primarily with Black Christian traditions. Emphasis will be placed on historic, theological, and sociological factors that shaped these dynamics and their importance for understanding Black socio-religious praxis today.
Research Methods Seminar
Introduction to a variety of research methods and practices in practical theology with particular attention to ethnography.
This course is an exploration of community engagement and participation in larger social movements as an expression of and as distinct from Black church formal institutional practices. Students will theologically examine social movements through biblical and other historical narratives, implementing a social-political lens and raising questions about how today’s church writes its own history in the context of contemporary movements.
Design Thinking/Ecologies of Ministry
Engagement with current ministry in Black Church traditions with particular attention to aesthetics and materiality and the significance of social context. The course will introduce students to principles of design thinking as a tool to lead congregations in imagining possibilities for ministry in a specific setting.
Black Churches and Scripture
Exploration of engagement with Scripture as a living witness in Black churches with particular attention to practices of hermeneutics and their relationship with sociocultural location.
Exploration of forms of sacred proclamation in Black church traditions and how proclamation in these instances, including preaching, artistic, and aesthetic expression, reflects awareness of specific context.
Gender and Black Church Leadership
This course considers gender dynamics in Black church traditions and the significance of gender to Black church conceptions of community and leadership possibilities.
Leadership and Endurance
A consideration of sources of spiritual sustenance offered by Black church traditions and the significance of spiritual practice in ethical formation.
Black Church Responsiveness to Issues
Consideration of some of the most pressing social issues of the present day, the significance of those issues for Black people in the United States, and the role of the church in responding to those issues.
Mobilizing Global Blackness
A consideration of the global reach of current social movements and the place of Black church traditions in that larger ecosystem.
Intergenerational Black Church Final Project
The Intergenerational Black Church Studies focus requires satisfactory completion of a doctoral project and paper which must demonstrate the candidate’s ability to identify a problem, issue, or concern in their own ministry, integrate appropriate theological, biblical, and professional resources, and develop a method for resolution. The doctoral project/paper must reflect depth of theological insight and its positive integration with the practice of ministry. (6 credits)
In episode 3 of the Doing it Different podcast, the new Intergenerational Black Church Studies Doctor of Ministry Focus, including its origins, hopes, and dreams, is the subject of this discussion between Dr. Drew Smith, faculty mentor, and Porsha Williams Gates. Listen to Episode 3.
Race, theology, gentrification and aesthetics feature prominently in this discussion of work at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary under a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. The grant examines the soft violence of gentrification and displacement as well as the hard violence and death that plays out in neighborhood change. An important feature of the grant is attention to sensory formations of race and place, and this discussion highlights how a focus on aesthetics informs the work of the grant and its intersection with life and formation at the Seminary. Dr. Drew Smith, Dr. Denise Thorpe, Dr. Scott Hagley, and PTS student researcher Shannon Garrett-Headen participate in the discussion with Porsha Williams Gates. Listen to Episode 4.
In this podcast Porsha Williams Gates interviews Dr. Jennifer Kaalund, who is associate professor if New Testament at PTS. Dr. Kaalund talks about hope, womanism, favorite Scripture passages, and her commitment to interpreting Christian Scripture as a word from God that brings people together rather than as a weapon that wounds. Listen to Episode 6.
Porsha Williams Gates discusses a grant to the Metro-Urban Institute by the Henry Luce Foundation to respond to the effects of COVID-19 on Black and Latinx communities. The Rev. Dr. Deirdre Hainsworth and the Rev. Dr. John Welch '02 discuss their work on the grant, what they have learned from the communities they have worked with, the value of this work to the Seminary, and the documentary sharing stories of systemic racism and the resilience of communities that is being produced through the grant. Listen to Episode 9.
Connect with the Doctor of Ministry Office to learn more about our next Intergenerational Black Church Studies cohort. We'd love to have you join us! Apply now to reserve your space in a future focus. Financial aid and scholarships are available for those who qualify.