Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Mary Hess

Second Advisor

Gary Simpson

Third Advisor

Patrick Keifert


Deep in the Burbs is a participatory action research project that gathered members from three upper-Midwest suburban ELCA congregations to explore how engagement with the social Trinity might impact the research team’s ideation or praxis of spiritual formation. The research team pursued this question through the practice of Dwelling in the Word—specifically in select passages from the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17)—various modalities of communicative learning, and communicative action projects in the community. The data indicate three major themes that became important to the research team: the essential nature of relationships, the necessity of reflection, and the awareness of the Holy Spirit’s agency in the world. These findings indicate that the process of participatory action research itself is a Trinitarian praxis that empowered the research team to shift from a vertical-personal ideation and praxis of spiritual formation to a horizontal-communal ideation and praxis of spiritual formation. This shift demonstrates the self-transcendence inherent in spiritual formation. These findings also provide practical implications for leaders of the missional church who seek to engage the suburban neighbor in the Gospel of peace—to the glory of God, through Jesus, and in the power of the Holy Spirit.