Faith as Meaning-Making in Our Lives

Faith as Meaning-Making in Our Lives
David R. Weiss – September 29, 2021

Over the past several weeks I’ve been working on presentations for the “Journey of Faith” adult faith formation series at my church.

I first encountered James Fowler’s theory of Faith Development as a college junior and used his research in crafting my senior Psychology research project. I read a book by him again in seminary. And revisited his work further in my (uncompleted) Ph.D. dissertation.

Over my two decades of college teaching, I taught Fowler’s ideas in full courses at Luther College, Augsburg, and St. Kate’s—including many “adult learners” (aged 30-60). His theory always proved personally insightful for my students, as well as evoking “big” questions beyond their own lives.

It’s been a challenge to gather even a fitting “glimpse” into Fowler’s work over two 30-minute presentations, but that’s been my task, and I think I’ve done reasonably well, so I’m sharing my work here.

My first presentation (September 22) was “Faith as the Holy Human Ground of Humanity – James Fowler on Faith as our Developing Capacity for Making Meaning in the World.” I prepared a 4200-word essay to get my own thinking sorted out; then I made up a 2-page “cheat sheet” handout, which is what I spoke from.

My second presentation (September 29) was “Seeing Faith in the Arc of OUR Lives – James Fowler on Faith as our Developing Capacity for Making Meaning in the World.” For that I prepared a 5300-word essay (which includes a whirlwind review of Week 1 for any newcomers), plus a 2-page “cheat sheet” handout, which is what I spoke from. This week the “cheat sheet” also includes a third page of “self-assessment” questions that invite you to reflect on your own life in light of Fowler’s work, and a fourth page of more general reflection questions.

If you studied Fowler with me (I know some of my former students follow my blog), you’ll find these papers a nifty refresher. If his work is new to you, you’re in for a dense but rewarding treat.

Here are links to pdfs of each document:

Enjoy—and feel free to pose your own questions to me!

David Weiss is a theologian, writer, poet and hymnist, doing “public theology” around climate crisis, sexuality, justice, diversity, and peace. Reach him at drw59mn@gmail.com. Read more at www.davidrweiss.com where he blogs under the theme, “Full Frontal Faith: Erring on the Edge of Honest.” Support him in writing Community SupportedTheology at www.patreon.com/fullfrontalfaith.

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