The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology will host the 2022 Integrative Project Symposium on Thursday, June 23, when students from our MDiv and MATC programs will share the projects that serve as a capstone of their time in graduate school. With a compelling blend of research methodology and The Seattle School’s unique lens, the Integrative Projects are part of what makes our curriculum unique—born out of years of study, countless conversations with peers and faculty, and each student’s distinctive embodiment of text, soul, and culture. In this annual symposium, The Seattle School’s alumni, current students, faculty, staff, and the Seattle community at large are invited to witness and celebrate the bold, thoughtful, and creative work of our graduating theology students, work that can be glimpsed in the abstracts below. In the coming months, final drafts of each Integrative Project will be available in The Seattle School’s library after the candidate’s graduation.
Lori Bailey, MATC 2022
Animating the Healing of the World: Engaging Christian Theories of Atonement, Redemption, and Restoration with an Aesthetic Theology of Japanese Anime
This aesthetic theological exploration engages, most fundamentally, with questions at the core of mythologies dating back through history: how do we cope with the reality of chaos? How do we deal with the monsters, within and without? Then—as individuals and as members of the human community—how do our narratives of sin and brokenness impact how we conceptualize divine power and authority, and how do these frameworks influence how we relate to one another and to our world?
Working from the concept of atonement theory in Christian theology, I interrogate the perspectives and assumptions that these frameworks cast on the human condition and upon the redemptive arc of humanity in relationship with the created world and with the divine. I then introduce, as a theological conversation partner, a visual narrative that explores atonement and redemption within the particular frame of Japanese popular culture known as anime. Comparing, questioning, and critiquing across cultural and religious contexts, this project ultimately relies upon aesthetics as the primary lens for metabolizing theologies of atonement and redemption in the pursuit of a creatively- informed theological construction that reflects a way of knowing and relating rooted in the “now” of being present to one’s particularity, as well as the “with” of existing in community.
Interacting with the theological, aesthetic, and ethical challenges in considering theories of atonement and redemption, this project draws upon a selection of characters and story arcs found within the Japanese anime Fullmetal Alchemist, a narrative piece that appropriately and stunningly poses its own questions and responses to the concepts of atonement and the redeeming of the world. Each portion utilizes story and character development to explore how particularity shapes how one internalizes—and ultimately lives out—theological beliefs around guilt and shame, power and agency, and inclusion and exclusion that might otherwise suffer disconnection from personal and communal reality. Through the investigation of how a creative approach to theology challenges and reshapes our assumptions and internalized beliefs, this project celebrates the power of aesthetics and storytelling to hold the chaos and discomfort of open-ended questions, to invite others into a community willing to hold that chaos with and for one another, and to paint a vision of a world redeemed and restored by the strength of compassionate relationship.
Mark Deiter, MATC 2022
A Verbal Fantasia on Byzantine Chant
Within the modern day American church, music has become a much debated, perhaps even dissonant, subject though in a broader view it appears as a series of extended variations encompassing a number of centuries. In the current century, Protestants have both contemporary and traditional services featuring distinctly different types of music, Catholics have seen many musical changes as a result of Vatican II, while the Orthodox ponder the differences between Byzantine chant and Kievan four part harmony. Beyond debates around style is a deeper question concerning the role of music in worship, which in turn invites questions about music itself. One of the most abstract of the arts, music weaves together a larger sense of place with the intimacy of personal memories. Within a few short measures, music can change the scenery playing in our imaginations. In studying the effects of music on the human brain, Scientists have found that particular musical elements tend to be processed more by the right or left hemispheres. Yet music seems less suited to a dissection of sorts via an academic lens and invites practice, a serious engagement between the depths of the performer and the depths of music. All of this is brought together to illuminate Byzantine chant, a style of music used widely within the Eastern Orthodox Church. Within the life of the Eastern Orthodox church, music cannot be reduced to particular characteristics or the way in which it interacts with the human brain. Instead, the mystery of music reveals both God and ourselves in greater fullness.
Mary Pauline Diaz-Frasene, MATC 2022
KALOOB: Articulations on Grief, Diaspora and Eucharist as Spaces for Power in Precarity
Where do we find grounding in shifting sands? My three years at The Seattle School have coincided with pandemic, war and corruption, as well as a civil rights uprising, mutual aid organizing and other experiments in solidarity. Communities worldwide are reconciling our understandings of our worlds alongside individual and collective grief, not only built on generations of compounding trauma but also carried by generations of wisdom and resistance. In this essay project, I insist that grief, mourning and memorial do not inherently detract from thriving, in spite of the ways they’ve been exploited and avoided. Rather, they can be the very things that sustain our humanity and connection in a culture of fracture, commodification and precarity.
Drawing on cultural theory, Catholic theology, as well as personal narrative, I engage three seemingly disparate themes through three Tagalog phrases: kapwa (fellow) and politicization of grief; bayanihan (communal action) and identity formation in diaspora; and utang na loob (debt of gratitude) and the Sacrament of Eucharist. Stitching back and forth between English and Tagalog, intimate and collective narratives, mortality and Trinity, memory and hope, my project moves in paradox to explore how our spaces of loss can be reclaimed as openings for sacred collective power.
Tara Hubbard, MATC 2022
Restored Connection: Lessons in Belonging Course
All persons long for and are made for connection. This desire and need for attachment is a process that begins at birth, and is reflected in the symbiotic nature of our Trinitarian theology. But far too often these needs go mismanaged or unmet and this leads to shame and protective self-defenses, that further hinder our ability to connect with other human beings and stifle our god-ordained need for attachment, intimacy, and community. This workshop addresses this prevalence of interpersonal disconnection in our culture. We are a people who find it hard to form deep and lasting connections. The epidemic of loneliness is big indicator of such. The decrease in people measuring securely attached is also evidence of less connection. Psychology tells us we don’t form a self without mirroring another. Neuroscience shows that our brain is made for interpersonal relationship. We suffer when we are not in connecting relationships and we carry these wounds in our body until healed, right through adulthood if it takes that long.
This project takes psychological observation, the theological model, and embodied learning and develops an approachable and accessible workshop, that allows human beings to build the practices that lead to connection with the other. It is designed to span a day and will ideally have 8-10 participants. Ultimately it names five essential elements critical to connection and, through the context of an interpersonal encounter, provides experiences of these elements. Relationship can only be felt, not learned from a book, and therefore it is important that these elements are ‘known’ to the body and the felt brain. There will be some discussion of each of the elements, followed by examples, activities and more discussion of the practice. We will also incorporate what we have learned into each subsequent element in order to provide continuous awareness and experience of connection. This is the main thrust of the workshop and will also include what not being connected to looks like in our current lives, and our guiding principles.
The hope is that participants will go away with the beginning and/or strengthening of brain pathways of felt connection. The goal is that the participants have felt connected to and that they are welcome, enjoyed and belong to a group. More than having knowledge, the hope is that they have felt enough connection to being to seek it out and/or pass it on by attuning, experiencing resonance, co-regulation, joy and vulnerability. We can only create and share connection when we know it ourselves.
Brian Schroeder, MATC 2022
Birthed from the Skull of a God, or, The Things We All Carry Around: An Exploration of the Reciprocal Ontology of the Powers to Humanity
This integrative project proposes that humanity is the direct creative force that begets entities referred to in Christian tradition as “powers and principalities.” Building on the foundation of Walter Wink’s seminal Powers trilogy, this paper will explore a reciprocal ontology that explains how humanity creates and sustains the Powers while these creatures support, define, and oppress humans. Wink’s framework for the Powers will be examined alongside the problematic history of Christianity’s interaction with the theology of these invisible forces. The psychological development of the self through relationships will be explored through object-relations and family systems theory. The Christian concept of humanity reflecting God’s nature in the imago Dei will also be put in conversation with Martin Buber’s philosophy of genuine meeting. Together, these insights will form the basis for this alternative ontology. Examples from popular culture reflecting these concepts will also be presented.
Christina Bergevin, MDiv 2022
Toward a Practicing Church: The Evolution of Sunday Morning
This Integrative Project is an exploration of what it means to gather as a Practicing Church. Working with the leadership and congregation of Pathways Church, a local Independent Christian Church in Mill Creek WA, the project will experiment with alternative ways of framing and organizing its Sunday gatherings. The goal is to reimagine and redefine the intention, purpose, and structure of the Church’s in-person assembly towards new possibilities for spiritual formation inherent in the act of practicing together as a community of faith. Towards this end–and aided by research in community building, human growth, and spiritual development–this project explores reconfiguring gathering spaces, implementing new language, decentralizing the sermon, and prioritizing interactive participation as a means of promoting human agency and relatedness. I claim that greater transformation is invited when church gatherings are centered on practicing together towards new possibilities which better equip people to follow the Way of Jesus in their everyday lives. Through this paper I will demonstrate that the Practicing Church offers new ways of being together which move beyond a commitment to church attendance and knowledge acquisition and towards the intent of participation and integration. The focus of practicing together resources congregants towards greater curiosity, belonging, resilience, hospitality, and growth.
Jonathan Washburn, MATC 2022
Spotlights and Shadows: Narcissism, Megachurch, and Me
This project explores narcissism in relation to my experience in the American evangelical megachurch community. I argue that narcissism is inherently traumatic by causing disconnection from one’s authentic self and remains largely misunderstood and unaddressed by its contemporary community. In Mark 8:34 (NRSV), Jesus provides a new image of authenticity to embrace instead of the Imperial image of his time– the cross. The cross, here, represents the consequence of rejecting one’s imperial identity and embracing one’s authentic self. Jesus subversively invites those who wish to follow him to do the same. I have attempted to follow Jesus in this way by embracing my desire and identity as an artist.