The Concentration in Religious Practices and Practical Theology is part of an Initiative developed in the Graduate Division of Religion (GDR) through the collaboration of the Candler School of Theology, the Department of Religion of the Emory College of Arts and Sciences, and The Lilly Endowment. This Initiative grows out of an extensive engagement in the study of religious practices among GDR faculty (past and present), graduates, and current students, and is fostered by the strong interest in religion throughout Emory University. The Concentration functions as a kind of "minor," a way of focusing and augmenting a student's graduate study and research within normal program requirements. It can be undertaken by students in any of the Courses of Study in the GDR.
The Concentration enables students within the GDR to be part of an emerging conversation vitally important to both religious and theological studies. This conversation centers upon the practices of religions and religious communities - patterns of action and ways of knowing that together embody and express shared visions and values. Every religion includes practices that can sustain or transform communities, such as public or private worship and devotion, ceremonies of initiation and healing, or sacred meals. These practices have histories, are typically located in institutions, are often supported by sacred texts, involve rituals and symbolic roles, and are infused with multiple meanings. They can be studied critically from many disciplinary angles including history, ritual theory, sociology, psychology, and comparative religion. They are also the focal point of critical and constructive theological work.
The primary aim of the Concentration is to develop scholar-teachers in the fields of practical theology. In doing so, the Concentration also prepares future leadership for religious communities through teaching and research in religious practices. It is designed especially for students who either:
- desire to specialize in one of the practical theological fields (e.g., religious education, pastoral care, homiletics, liturgics, congregational leadership), or
- wish to relate their study and research in any area of religious studies (Asian religions, Biblical Studies, Theological Studies, Jewish Studies, or any other field) to the teaching and scholarship of religious practices.