We have reached a milestone in our Gilesgate Journey. Last month, I finished my Ph.D. thesis and submitted it for examination. This is one of the last major steps in completing the degree program. It is truly a significant milestone.
First a bit about the thesis itself: In accordance with the University’s guidelines, the thesis is about 100,000 words. That translates to around 335 pages. The project investigates how contemporary United Methodist short-term mission (STM) participants express their motivations for taking part in their service activities. It uses academic literature to codify a United Methodist theology of mission through investigation of the historical influences and current mission practices. Emphasis is placed upon the development and expression of a theology of the missio Dei within the context of a discussion of Fresh Expressions, the Emergent Church, and Third-Wave Mission movements. The unique role of United Methodist mission is illustrated through its historical roots in the Wesleyan movement and contemporary expression in the ubiquitous STM movement in the United States. Next, it utilizes original field research data: semi-structured focus group interviews and online anonymous surveys to gather the implicit and explicit theologies of lay and clergy participants in these international service journeys. The literature and field research are synthesized to further develop a theology of STM.
During our time in Durham, my work focused on using the University’s resources for developing the theology of mission and to prepare for the field work after our return to the USA. The rich resources of the libraries, faculties, colleagues, and overall environment of Durham were invaluable to this work. As much as we enjoyed our time living in Durham, it was necessary to base in the United States for the field research. I contacted colleagues and acquaintances far and wide to find field research participants and interviewed STM teams in four different states. You can see why it was easier for us to return to the USA for that portion of the work. I returned to the UK regularly for continued work in the libraries and with my supervisors and colleagues.
Now that the thesis has been submitted, that means that there is one more step left: the oral defense of the thesis. Termed the viva voce (with the living voice), the viva is a chance for me to present my work before top-notch scholars in my field. They will only know my work from what they find in the thesis. Since the thesis must present a significant original contribution to the field, the author of the thesis is the only who knows this much about this particular topic. The examiners will investigate the academic rigor of the thesis and the research methodologies and conclusions.
After two or three (or four or five?) hours of discussion, the examiners will confer with one another and may make a recommendation to accept the thesis as presented. Or they may suggest that I make corrections of typographical or editorial errors. Or they may recommend I rewrite some portion of the thesis. This can range from a paragraph or two to a chapter or two. In other words, after the viva they will ask me to wait in the hallway for some yet unknown (agonizing) period of time. When they call me back in, I may hear “Congratulations, Dr. Haynes!” or “Mr. Haynes, we would like you to reconsider…”
As exciting as this is, there is a downside. Rob will be traveling alone and will only be in Durham for just a few days. That time will be spent preparing for the viva and any follow up work the examiners give him. The drawback is that there will not be time to visit with our dear British friends as we would like. HOWEVER, we look forward to visiting with everyone when the whole family comes for Congregation in June. Book us a place in your diary!
We would like to invite you the next portion of this journey. Would you join us prayer about this? The viva is set for next month. Pray for peace for Rob as he prepares. Pray for the ability to answer the examiners’ questions in a clear and engaging manner. Pray for God’s blessings upon the examiners.
We are so grateful for you as we near the end of this portion of the journey. Your support has meant the world to us. We cannot imagine the journey without you. You have enriched us with your encouragement–on both sides of the Pond.