When, why, and how do people write outside of school contexts? How does writing fit into a life? What powers or advantages might writing confer, and how do writers make use of those? How does writing function in professional life, in family life, and/or in lives of faith?
Writing in/as Ministry. Writing pervades the work of ministry, be it in preparing for preaching, in administration, in intra- and extra-community relations, or in individual practice of faith. Studies documenting literate practices in various religious communities (e.g., Baquedano-Lopez, 2008; Brandt, 2001; Burton, 2008; Eakle, 2007; Sarroub, 2005) have described patterns of sponsorship of literacies within those communities and the development of religious identities among individuals in their relation to community groups. At the same time, writing is frequently used in communities of faith in connection to prayer, textual interpretation, reflection and discernment, evangelism, and exhortation or preaching (Baldwin, 1991; Hackenberg, 2011; Hickman, 2013; Klug, 2001; McAvoy & Core, 2000). This research asks, “What writing practices and processes are engaged by ministers, and what are the affordances and challenges associated with these?” Data included in-depth interviews and related observations of ministers at work, in a qualitative design strongly informed by Brandt (2001). Via within-case and cross-case analyses of content (Huberman and Miles, 1994) the study presents analyses of the uses of writing in ministry, the contributions of that writing to religious community and to the practice of faith, and challenges to using writing effectively in ministry. The project contributes to a wider effort to better understand the role of literacy in lives and communities of faith. Rather than conceptualizing literacies as beginning and ending in the school classroom, this research aims toward a picture of literate practice that engages identity, spirituality, community, and belief.
Shame and Writing. One thing that stands in the way of writing for many people is shame– a deep sense of unworthiness to the task, tied to a feeling that their writing is them and thus any failures in writing are identity threats.
Publications in the area of Writing in Life Outside of School:
Whitney, A. E. (forthcoming 2017). Manuscript or notes? Author, audience, and spirit in writing for preaching. Journal of Religious Leadership.
Whitney, A. E. (forthcoming 2017). God’s giving me words for you/Bless this research: God, talk, and God-talk in qualitative inquiry. Qualitative Inquiry.