Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Theresa Latini


This thesis inquires after the lived-through experience of community in the congregation by the pastoral leader. It is predicated upon the multiple self whose plurality is understood through psychoanalytical and postcolonial theories as well as by developmental processes illumined by interpersonal neurobiology. The phenomenological inquiry into one pastor’s experience of community in the congregation yielded in vivo themes – movement, joy, and open; connect, conflict, and centering; table, hospitality, love, and diversity -- that were understood broadly from the wondering perspective of desire. Closer theoretical analysis of these in vivo themes from theological, psychological, and interpersonal neurobiological conceptual categories was ordered by privileging bottom up experiences – sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts -- of the relational body and its wisdom.

This phenomenological description of community engages two differing but related theological understandings of community or koinonia. The first such understanding is from a Neo-orthodox Protestant perspective that emphasizes an asymmetrical ordering of divine and human relatedness through the Holy Spirit. In this framework that draws upon and innovates from Karl Barth, koinonia is reconciliation, where human and divine coinhere in interlocking relationships.

The spirited paradox of human-divine presence, action, and agency joins with relational insights of the emotional body in community or the second understanding of koinonia. Of particular importance in this particular conversation is how new understandings emerge around embodied and conceptual realities of trust and truth; witness and participation; time and power; and freedom.

The engagement of these realities in the second understanding of koinonia is from a liberation theological perspective that privileges the suffering body and its emotional wisdom from a stance of relational integration. The interplay of Neo-orthodox Protestant and liberation theologies provides for the proposal that koinonia is the emotional coinherence of relational bodies. Thus, the unconscious relational dimensions of experienced emotion, that is, countertransference, are constitutive of koinonia. The in vivo themes flesh out the significance and implications of countertransference as koinonia.