Recognizing Difference: New Roles for Churches Amid Dramatic Change Open Access

Smyth, Daniel (Spring 2018)

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Change is inevitable for the church. Congregations must transcend the complex cycles of change in today’s turbulent world by discovering their new roles in a more diverse society. How does a congregation transcend the complex cycles of change, especially when change begins outside of its walls in a world beyond its control? What is the role of the church which exists in a community and culture vastly different from when it was first established? This project seeks to answer these and other questions by reflecting on the new roles for Cambridge United Methodist Church in Ninety Six, SC. A textile mill built the church and the mill village surrounding the church. The mill has moved on to other markets worldwide, and the church has chosen to remain in the changing community. Churches, amid dramatic change, must learn to recognize difference and create a future distinct from its past. Paramount to success is learning new habits of listening to those within the community, each other, and God.

This project focuses on disability within the congregation, which is a good place to recognize difference. The methods used can help identify other needs and trends within the community. The last part of the thesis is a reflection on the theology of disability that asserts a fundamental equality among all persons regardless of difference. A congregation that recognizes that difference does not mean less can become a more genuine community of faith. The Church can be known as a place that welcomes all people, including those with disabilities.


Table of Contents


Recognizing Difference:New Roles for Churches Amid Dramatic Change







Influence of the Mill


Sharing a New Church Vision and Mission


A New Strategy Forward


Inclusiveness versus Discrimination


Belonging to Ancestors and Story Telling


Church and Community


New Encounters and New Initiatives


Excursus: Understanding Autism


Response: Creating an Autism Task Force


Beyond Inclusion: A Theology of Belonging







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