The Past Two Months or so: Minneapolis Edition

At the end of May, I drove from Lansing to Minneapolis for the third and final stop on the participant observation phase of data collection for my dissertation. For June and July, I was living in Minneapolis to gather data on Bethlehem Baptist Church (BBC), which is one of the leading mega-churches in the "New Calvinist" or "Neo-Reformed" pocket of American Evangelicalism. Unfortunately, I arrived at BBC shortly after John Piper had left Minneapolis for a year-long sabbatical in Tennessee.

During my two months studying the church, I attended about forty church events and was able to interview a handful of BBC's pastors. I was staying with a retired professor in a house about five miles southeast of downtown Minneapolis, overlooking the Mississippi River. I experienced a few good cafes and restaurants in the city, but most days I simply went to Riverview Cafe to work.

In the middle of my time in Minneapolis, from June 27th through July 1st, I flew back to Michigan to spend an extended weekend with Ali. That weekend we had our engagement photo shoot (with Lenon James Photography) and our parents met each other for the first time over a nice lunch in Ann Arbor.

Once I was back in Minneapolis, it seemed like I was receiving diminishing returns on my time spent at BBC events. So I took advantage of being in Minneapolis by also observing a few events at Solomon's Porch, which is a leading congregation in the Emergent/theologically-liberal pocket of American Evangelicalism. Attending Solomon's Porch for a couple weeks was a good change of pace and will provide a bit more rich, experiential material for my dissertation.

Near the end of my stay in Minneapolis, I was also able to attend a day-long workshop (a "missional roundtable") organized by Missio Alliance, which is a leading gathering spot for the neo-Anabaptist pocket of American Evangelicalism (although not everyone at Missio Alliance would self-identity with that faith tradition).

Aside from interviews at BBC, over the last two months I have had the privilege of interviewing a number of well-known pastors and church leaders, including J.I. Packer, Collin Hansen, and Doug Pagitt, among others. I am up to 35 interviews now, which is a good start, and I hope that interviews will start to come in more quickly and from a broader range of the Evangelical landscape now that participant observation is finished.

I also had some long periods of writing during which I mostly worked on the first two chapters of my dissertation. I also continued my (selective) job search, though as of yet to no avail. Luckily, Ali and I have the resources such that I can take this upcoming academic year to write my dissertation and prepare myself well for a less selective job search starting next spring. And of course, much time was spent on wedding planning. Our wedding day is now less than two months away, so I am glad to see that things are finally starting to come together.

Overall, my time in Minneapolis was not quite as fun as in Seattle or Manhattan, but I still got done what needed to get done for my research project. On Wednesday, July 31st, I took off from Minneapolis and spent the night in Rockford, Illinois. The next day, I drove the rest of the way and arrived in Ann Arbor. Right now, I am visiting Ali in Ann Arbor. Just a couple days ago, we secured our first apartment together in Ann Arbor, just south of central campus off Packard St.

Before I settle into Ann Arbor (for now), though, there are still a couple more short trips to make. Next up, I am heading to Lansing for a couple days to visit my parents. Then I am flying back out to Manhattan for nine days to attend a few conferences, including the Junior Theorists Symposium, the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, and a two-day conference at NYU on critical realism.

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