The Seattle School community gathers annually along with friends and families of the graduating MDiv and MATC students for the Integrative Project Symposium. This year, in the midst of ongoing restrictions to public gatherings, students pre-recorded their presentations and will be participating in a virtual Integrative Project Symposium Q&A on June 11.
The Integrative Project serves as a capstone for students in our MDiv and MATC degree programs as they both look back on their training and discern what it will look like for them to serve God and neighbor in their post-graduate contexts. Students work with a faculty advisor to form a project that integrates the student’s passions and calling, drawing from the fullness of their experience at The Seattle School and a robust research methodology to create a major project or paper.
The 12 presentations below synthesize each project’s thesis along with the student’s experience in creating it, and are organized into three framing categories. In the coming months, final drafts of each Integrative Project will be available in The Seattle School’s library after the candidate’s graduation.
Integrative Project Symposium Q&A
Crossing Boundaries, Coming Home
Hawaii Pupu Sampler: A Historical Account and Cookbook of Hawaii Local Dishes
Keone Villaplaza, MATC
Food is more than nourishment to the body. Comfort foods are less about caloric and dietary intake but instead remind us of a home, a person, and a smell. Local Hawaii food represents the history of Hawaii and the culture of its people. My presentation of “Local” foods in Hawaii is an amalgamation of the three major immigrant groups in Hawaii: the Native Hawaiians, the American/Western, and the immigrants who came to work the plantations with local recipes in between.
As Chef Sheldon states, “Hawaii food, or what we call local food, tells a story of where we came from.” Food serves as the physical metaphor of our relationship to the land, religion, and different cultures. As the 50th state, Hawaii carries America’s influences but retains a culture that draws from the Native Hawaiians and Asian cultures. It is essential today as the “mainland” America seems to have amnesia toward the history of immigrants, slaves, and Native people today. Ronald Takaki and Jeff Chang’s local childhood experiences led to questions about Hawaii’s unique stance toward race and ethnicity. By including recipes, I give space for the voices of the Native Hawaiians, the working class, and (mostly) Asian immigrants in Hawaii’s food culture.
The historical section uses several books that involve Native Hawaiian’s religion and their self-sustaining food system, American capitalism and plantations, and immigrant’s nostalgia for foods of their homeland. The recipes come from three local cookbooks that also give a sample of influences while creating a distinct cuisine and culture. The final recipe of Hawaii’s local favorite, Spam Musubi, serves as a conversation of multiculturalism and my hope for mainland America.
Father, Son, and The Aloha Spirit: An Anticolonial Engagement with Decolonial Theologies
Millicent Haase, MDiv
Eurocentric churches have attempted programs of racial reconciliation to varying degrees of success, most of which are left wanting. Our task as white Christians seeking appropriate antiracist and anticolonial ally-ship is to listen and to be changed by story. Rather than fit indigenous narratives into our own, for example, how can we be changed – seriously theologically and systemically changed? This project is an anticolonial project – one from within the dominating majority seeking to undermine power – that seeks to unsettle Eurocentric theologies. Decolonial theologians – theologians from the margins – are illuminating biblical motifs and theologies in nuanced ways, and these are the voices we need to guide us into a more complete and unfolding ethics of Jesus if we are to advance the broader postcolonial project of dismantling systems of white supremacy. By looking to Rev. Dr. Kaleo Patterson as one example of an indigenous decolonial theologian nuancing Eurocentric theologies, practitioners are invited to consider the ways the Hawaiian demigod Kukailimoku illuminates: 1. God’s desire to simply be with us; 2. The invitation to re-image the Cross; 3. The shortcomings of atonement theories and the invitation to something new. Drawing upon social anthropology, theology, biblical studies, and history, I excavate Patterson’s sermons, take us to the biblical motifs Patterson himself highlights, and then explore what indigenously nuanced theologies look like and what this means for anticolonial allies. While I am drawing heavily on the work of Rev. Dr. Patterson as one example of a decolonial indigenous theologian, I am not merely reporting his words and ideas. Rather, I am accepting Patterson’s invitation – among other decolonial theologians – to poke holes in Eurocentric theologies, and modeling ways by which our theological imaginations can play to expand in liberating ways.
Elders and Adolescents: Adolescence Reimagined
Michael Alfstad, MATC
This project addresses the question, how can adolescence be reimagined today in the light of the recent, ground-breaking research done in the disciplines of psychology, theology, neuroscience, and biology? At the outset, the project focuses upon the commonly held and highly deleterious myth, in western society, about adolescence today. The myth is deconstructed as context and insights are brought to bear about the young and their behaviors while they are navigating their way through the years within adolescence.
Research will be cited that brings to light much that is new about these years, a crucial time when there is a new intellectual birth within the individual. This is a time of significant biological, psycho-social, neurological change; exploring how new constructive appreciations of this life phase can come from important new research-based knowledge and insights. An anecdote from my awkward teen years is shared. The story presents an experience where my grandfather and I had a moment of deep, life altering connection. In the light of all of the discussions, the story is tied to the current need for absent relationships in the life of the adolescent.
Moving past the myth, capturing the knowledge and understandings recently brought to light, a discussion will conclude the project where the opportunity to introduce beneficial social change might be made possible. Elders, prepared and intentional, can step forward to mentor and bring new experiences and new relationships into the lives of the adolescents.
Art, Fragmentation, and Transformation
Transfiguration of the Maternal Bond: Re-forming Divine Image through Embodied Visual Memoir
Ellie Bosworth, MATC
New mothers must navigate idyllic images that distort an honest experience of mothering. Rather than a single story and static image, I hope to bring complexity to the ineffable shift that occurs through the birth of both mother and child. Mothers intrinsically hold stories within their bodies which have spiritual import. A mother cannot escape the reality of having a body. Her identity and body is literally torn asunder and transfigured. This deeply bodied shift informs a divine in-breaking, however fragmented, to a very human moment. Through the embodied mother-child bond, I hope to reveal its intimate relationship to the divine.
Using the experience of the embodied mother as a lens to re-form divine image, I insist that within the birthing body, the holy tension of distress and delight is held together. My experience with carrying, birthing, and feeding from my body tells me it has knowledge to give and connection to offer. At the very same time it has turned me inward, fragmenting the world I inhabit. Using visual memoir, I will use my own narrative of shifting within my body and identity – and simultaneously my daughter’s – of a particular moment in our first year postpartum. I invited her to participate in co-creating in remembering and meaning making. Just as my body and hers are inseparable and yet individual, we explore together in mutual exchange; art becomes the expression of this unnamable experience through the touchable medium of paint and charcoal. By reframing divine image and sacralizing personal memoir I hope to provide a deeply intimate exploration of the relationship between corporeality and divinity through the body of a mother and her child.
Stitch by Stitch: Art from the Ashes
Emma Groppe, MATC
Unfortunately, due to family circumstances, Emma is unable to attend the Integrative Project Q&A. To share reflections or questions with Emma in response to her project, please submit this form.
Traumatic experience, fractured cultural memory, loss of language in the wake of grief: these wounds are rooted in the depths of humanity’s laments, both personal and communal. Attending to such fragmentation is particular, laborious, and vulnerable work. Against a type of attention, a type of ‘restoration’ which aims to cover over, or even to find wholeness in a return to that which came before the rupture, my focus within this project is on a type of repair that offers witness to these spaces of deepest woundedness, therein discovering radical healing. Through the expressive medium of hand embroidery, I explore this landscape of fragmentation, engaging in quilt repair largely inspired by the aesthetics of Kintsugi, the Japanese craft of mended ceramics. By attending to the fragments, to the open wounds on the body of the quilt through the artistic act of revealing, I ask after the relationship between fragmentation and healing, finding mending and making to be the same movement of the needle. And, more so, I listen for the theological implications of this work, and am met by an enriched understanding of God’s hopeful and creative attention to and redemption of our most intimate brokenness.
Recovery, Escape, and Consolation: Fantasy’s Generous Gifts
Lisa LaMarche, MATC
J.R.R Tolkien’s secondary world of Middle Earth awakens the heart to wonder and imagination, providing a fantasy landscape for exploration of the expansive human experience. In his famous essay, “On Fairy Stories,” Tolkien lays out his understanding of the nature of fantasy literature and its uses in the modern age. It has become a primary source for all who read about and build secondary worlds. In his essay, Tolkien claims that fantasy provides recovery of enchantment, worthy escapism, and the consolation of a happy ending. Tolkien’s fantastical world also enlivens our imagination for a hope which holds the complexity of suffering and the scars that remain with the promise of new beginnings.
Embodied Story and Re-Formation
Blood and Soil: Tending Ancestral Wounds of White Christianity
Kathryn Fontana, MDiv
Although denouncement was the dominant Christian response, across denominations, to the January 6th white supremacist siege of the US capital building, this paper makes the case that a more appropriate and effective Christian stance toward white supremacists is one of kinship. Drawing on church history, indigenous research methods, and the emerging field of cultural somatics, I offer cross-historical and cultural attachment analysis of the siege of the capital study with the 9th century Frank invasion and forced conversation of the Saxons. I offer this as one example of a cultural trauma in the Christian lineage that severed a key form of land-based / animist Christianity. Such a loss of ancestral tools of resource and resilience by animist Christians at the hand of imperial Christians, I argue, severed cultural, ancestral, and ecological kinship ties, and quickened the rise of insecure cultural attachment patterns in the European Christian “soma.” Just one example of many, these insecure cultural attachment patterns of Christianity have profoundly shaped the trajectory of the Western world, including the rise of white supremacy in the United States and its ubiquitous attachment behaviors that show up relationally and bodily across ideological lines. This project is an exploration of the process of restoring healthy ancestral / cultural attachment bonds as a critical process for white Christians to engage responsibly and sustainably in allyship efforts today. Given the dissociative nature of logocentrism in white Christian ancestral memory, I offer somatic trance – gentle, titrated awareness of bodily sensation and accompanying ecological and spiritual associations – which I learned through the work of Tada Hozumi and Dare Sohei – as one form of a non-dominant ‘research method’ that can connect white Christians with anthropological data lost to Christianity’s written memory. Such data, I suggest, would support the restoration of secure cultural attachment bonds, restoring healthy culture to the Christian body as a whole, and equipping white Christians to be more sustainable and effective in addressing and healing white supremacy in our churches, communities and in the world at large.
The Idolatry of Consciousness: Materiality and Spirituality in Christian Formation
Samuel Koekkoek, MDiv
For most of the history of Western theology and philosophy, there has more often than not been a stark dualistic hierarchy of the spiritual over the material, mind over body. Rather than simply reordering this hierarchy, this paper examines the relationship between spirituality and materiality, and the human need for dialogical mutuality between these complementary forces. Not only has the Western cultural mind traditionally placed spirituality at the top of this hierarchy, it has also allowed and incentivized particular categories of materiality to project their own qualities into the role of the universal, spiritual, and transcendent, as exemplified by white supremacy, patriarchy, wealth inequality, anthropocentrism, etc. The projection of any particularity onto universality is the beginning of idolatry, which inevitably leads to systemic violence and oppression. This paper invites its readers to consider a theological frame wherein the transcendence and unknowability of God informs a potential solution to theodicy, a method for understanding systems of violence and oppression as well as strategy for resistance against such powers, and the being and formation of Christians, all by way of an apophatic deconstruction of the projection of human consciousness onto God. This is the starting point for a constructive theology that emphasizes materialism and Christian mysticism in equal measure, going so far as to suggest they are mutually interdependent facets of Christian formation.
In the Realm of Jungian Psychoanalysis: Examining Popular Culture Fandom as a Catalyst for Individuation
Rachel Zeller, MACP
In the last decade, there is a growing body of research exploring popular culture fandom communities and what fans gain from participating. Current published research includes examining the difference between fandoms and local community (Chadborn et al., 2018); qualities of fan experience (Chen, 2007; Yamato, 2016; Zsubori & Das, 2018); eudaimonic and hedonic motivations among fans (Taylor, 2019; Vinney & Dill-Shackleford, 2018, Vinny et al., 2019); and the impact of fandom on mental well-being such as creation of self (Hills, 2017), self-empowerment (Nylund, 2007), belonging (Tague et al., 2020), and meaning-making (Vinney et al., 2019). Although researchers are steadily exploring the psychology of fans and fandoms, current research only skims the surface of understanding how the complex structure of fans’ positive valuation and identification with fandoms can be effectively incorporated into individual psychotherapy. This paper is the final product for meeting completion of The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology Integrative Project. Furthermore, as a literature review in preparation for beginning doctoral dissertation research, this paper explores popular culture fandom experience within the intersectionality of the Jungian psychoanalytic framework. This study claims, from a Jungian psychoanalytic perspective, that exploring clients’ fandoms in psychotherapy is an effective tool because fandoms tap into innate, universal collective unconscious structures through archetypal representation in modern mythical stories. As the outcome of this literature review, I will theorize how fandom can be used as an effective tool in individual psychotherapy by bringing universal, collective mythology and relational collectiveness into the therapeutic space.
Imagining for the Beloved Community: Challenging Orthodoxy With Embodied Orthopraxy
Tiny Pieces: Finding “Wholiness” by Shattering the Body Terrorism of the Church and Forming a New Embodied Theology of Imago Trini Dei
Sophie Katrina Fitzpatrick, MDiv
Body Terrorism is a hydra, a monster with many heads. While the body positivity movement is working to cut off the heads of media and diet culture and both external and internal body shame, there is one big mother of a head that no amount of books and social media hashtags can tackle: Christian theology. While many secular resources exist that offer healing and solace for those who have been harmed by this world’s devaluation of bodies, there are very few that bridge the gap between the secular and Christian world. European and American white Christian Churches are not only complicit in body terrorism, but were also partners in the historical establishment of body supremacies and hierarchies. As such, I assert the necessity of reworking of two doctrines, the Trinity and the imago Dei, into an embodied theology of imago Trini Dei, declaring that humanity, created in God’s image, is also one in three, with the body, mind, and soul all existing and interpenetrating one another in a sacred perichoretic relationship.
An embodied theology of imago Trini Dei connects the doctrine of the Holy Trinity with the doctrine of imago Dei, answering the question that theologians have been asking for centuries: how does humanity bear the image of God? Many theologians have claimed that only the soul reflects the imago Dei, casting the body in opposition as lowly, base, and vile. The egalitarian Trinity of the Eastern Orthodox tradition asserts that each part of the Holy Trinity is equal, dancing together in an infinite, interpenetrating flow that allows them each to permeate one another, endlessly, inextricably entwined as one God. If perichoresis is applied in the same way to the three parts of a human, the body, the soul, and the mind, then each part of the person is entwined inseparably and also equally divine, equally loved, and equally perfect in the eyes of God.
Toward an Inclusive, Anticolonial Hermeneutic of the Bible
Jana Grosenbach Peterson, MDiv
In the wake of colonialism’s violence, individuals, communities, and the earth are left battered, beaten, and bruised. Although we are all impacted in different ways, nobody has escaped the harm of colonialism’s powerful grasp. At times, we have been complicit with colonialism by perpetuating its power and control. This is especially true of white settler-colonists who have seized control of North America, known to indigenous peoples as Turtle Island. The Bible has historically been used by eurocentric theologians as a tool in the hands of colonialism to justify unimaginable harm (both egregious macroaggressions as well as insidious microaggressions) to those who do not comply with its demands. Drawing on multiple disciplines, including Biblical Scholarship and Postcolonial Studies, this paper offers a new hermeneutical tool to white American Christians who long for a way to live out their faith authentically while also actively working to subvert the empire. It exposes the harm of colonialism, particularly as it relates to the way the Bible has been read and applied; it also proposes a new hermeneutic as a step toward reading the Bible in a way that results in the flourishing of all of life and creates the possibility of a different kind of faith community. While eurocentric, kyriarchal readings of the Bible provide the underpinnings and justification for excluding, colonizing, and fragmenting relationships, an inclusive, anticolonial hermeneutic provides the underpinnings and imagination for receiving others, creation, and even ourselves as a Divine gift.
Deconstruction: Toward the Prophetic Art of Language Construction
Mikaela Serafin, MDiv and MACP
In between text and meaning lies deconstruction – a methodology arising from Jaques Derrida’s scholarship that argues language is irreducibly complex and indeterminate. When it comes to Church history, the relationship between text and meaning has evolved drastically over time. Throughout history, the language of the Church has been plenty and often wrought with control and power. In an effort to reorient the Christian faith to a well-suited language that is ethical and faithful to the Biblical text and present era, deconstruction, as a current theological movement, seeks to critique Christian institutions and free faith from its problematic language, theology, doctrines, and practices. While utilizing the lenses of theology, psychology, philosophy, and trauma studies, this project discusses language acquisition and usage as it pertains to the Church acting as a deconstruction practice. As a result of this process, this project articulates the inarticulate and unethical language often found in today’s pulpits and churches and its many consequences, such as oppression and manipulation. I claim that a faithful Christian reading, expression, and application requires critical evaluation of text, meaning, and language so as to create ethical, faithful, and legitimate discourse and practice in and out of the pulpit.