In Embedded Faith, author Carlton Johnstone looks into the lives of young adults who are actively engaged with specific worshiping communities.
Johnstone’s aim is to uncover the reasons why young adults who have committed themselves to these communities have chosen to stay or chosen to find new communities that better suit their spiritual and social needs. He conducted a series of interviews and case studies with young adults in New Zealand who have experienced being in community within a wide variety of Christian traditions, ranging from Pentecostal and Baptist to Anglican and Roman Catholic.
The book begins by providing readers with a definition of the phrase embedded faith, and this definition serves as an explanation of the author’s ultimate goal in writing the book:
Embedded faith provides a contrasting perspective to understandings of the changing religious landscape as one of religious consumerism, while at the same time providing an alternative framework for religious investigation.
Specifically, the author is interested in exploring how faith is embedded in churches as “communities of memory.” Thus, the interviews included in the book are only with young adults who are currently affiliated with worshiping communities.
The interview format seems to be particularly inviting. Readers listen in on deep and personal conversations with individuals talking about their faith journeys and their needs and desires for meaningful experiences of community.
These conversations cover a wide variety of topics, including the significance of ritual, the factors that one might consider when deciding to leave a particular community, the importance of building relationships, and the impact of particular styles of music and preaching.
In the final chapter, the author proposes an interesting concept: acceptance of “church two-timing” (attending more than one church in order to fulfill various spiritual needs) as a method of encouraging young adults to commit to a “primary church.” The author concludes by inviting readers to consider whether or not those who engage in “church two-timing” should be judged as religious consumers.
Eric Mancil is an M.Div. middler at Virginia Theological Seminary.