Cover art for the book. Source:

The book, “Ethnography as a Pastoral Practice: An Introduction,” written by Mary Clark Moschella, is a book that leads many, especially students, into the world of using ethnography in the pastoral field. This text can and has been used as the main text for pastoral research classes in some master of theology, divinity, or ministry program. Moschella takes the skills used in Ethnography and applies them to the ministry in order to help pastors and other church leaders better serve their respective communities and help the grow. We see this in the example of Ken. Ken was an African American student pastor who was given the task of pastoring an all white southern congregation. In his time there, Ken realized that it appeared that his congregation was afraid of change. His realization was proven to be true upon him observing the congregation when they had gained twenty new members. He noted that within three months, seven of the new members had been driven off by the old members, and those same old members were trying to convince him to try to win back old members who had left the church much earlier. After digging through church records and learning about what had driven people out in the past, he came up with ethnographic questions to ask the congregation in an interview, and in doing so, he learn much more than he had thought he would. This obviously is just one example of the many that the book provides.

In the book, Moschella argues that ethnography allows religious leaders to better engage the congregations faith practices in theological reflection and better understand the faith of the people. She supports this in stating, “sometimes, we can’t even know what a congregation’s theology really is until we look at what the people there do- how they practice their faith.” (Moschella) Going even further into this argument, she states, “sometimes, by studying a congregation’s practices — the things they do and reasons they give fore doing them — we can get a vague sense of where God is in all of this.” (Moschella) I honestly can’t think of anything that would better suit a pastor or church leader to learn, and like we see this begin to pan out in the story of Ken, we see it do the same throughout the rest of the book!