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Faith in the gap: faith formation in emerging adults involved in a one-year internship programme

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posted on 2023-08-30, 19:25 authored by Peter S. White
The research question answered by this thesis is: ‘How can a one-year internship programme enable the formation of faith in young adults?’ The programme investigated is in the Peterborough Diocese of the Church of England. I lead the internship that facilitates faith formation and vocational discernment. Whilst similar programmes are developing in the Church of England and elsewhere, it is an under-researched area. The research is a qualitative, phenomenological project using a case study with a group of 7 young adults who were participants during one year. Data was collected through semi-structured interviews at the beginning and end of the year, a focus group activity and discussion, and a photography exercise. Engagement with the literature analysed the nature of emerging adulthood, the impact of gap years in other contexts and theological perspectives on the formation of faith. The research aimed to discover the core influences on formation, drawing on practical theology, youth ministry practice and theories of emerging adulthood. The theological concept of habitus is proposed to address some of the challenges of a secular age and prior models of formation that emphasise cognitive processes. Thematic analysis revealed three spheres of influence – relationships, encounter, and narratives of purpose. The concept of vocation is understood as discovering meaningful purpose that develops within the context of covenant community, practices of faith, and learning the story of God that together generate a habitus. The gap year and stage of life offer liminality, an ideal context for change. Faith is described as that which gives meaning and purpose, and formation is the process by which that kind of faith is discovered and shaped. A unique contribution to knowledge is made in drawing together perspectives on faith formation, emerging adulthood, the gap year, and processes of change. Practical recommendations are made to improve my own practice and that of others.



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