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Senior Seminar - Abundant Community: Ways of Belonging
Isolde K. Anderson, Dept. of Communication

This course will examine the many ways we connect with one another and create community – face to face and online. We will critique our consumer society, consider ways to reweave the social fabric when it has worn thin, reflect on the possibilities of virtual community, then travel to Scotland to learn about different types of communities there, and experience the gift of Christian fellowship at Iona. Readings, discussion, short essays and a world-and-life-view paper will provide a framework for reflecting on where you live (geographically and virtually) and what you live for.

Key Questions to Be Explored:
What does a healthy neighborhood look like?
What is community?
What is online community?
What is Christian community?
How can I identify the gifts of others?
What resources for community-building are available in the Christian tradition?


  • We will meet four times during spring semester to discuss readings.
  • We will meet MTW during the week after graduation and before departing for Scotland.
  • We will meet three times in seminar during our Scotland trip

Required Reading List:

  • Block, P., & McKnight, J. (2010). The abundant community: Awakening the power of families and neighborhoods. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.
  • Bonhoeffer, D. (1954). Life together. New York: Harper & Row.
  • Palmer, P. (1986). The company of strangers. New York: Crossroad.
  • Pipher, M. (1996). The shelter of each other. New York: Putnam. (Selected chapters)
  • Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling alone. New York: Simon & Schuster. (Selected chapters)
  • Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together. New York: Basic Books. (Selected chapters)

Students will:

  1. Acquire knowledge of Christian ways of being, knowing, and living.
    Articulate their own value commitments and discuss them in light of Christianity.
  2. Acquire an awareness and tolerance of differing values that people affirm and live by.
  3. Increase their ability to discuss differences of value openly, sensitively, and reasonably.
  4. Acquire an ability to reflect on their own philosophy for life and to write about it in a personal, coherent, and disciplined manner.

Course Assignments:

  1. Short essays based on the readings
  2. Liberal arts reflection paper
  3. Leading group discussion of assigned readings
  4. World-and-Life-View Paper focusing on “Who I am in relation to others”.

General Outline of Course (4 parts):

We will begin the course by reflecting on the American middle-class lifestyle and the state of American communities. Readings will include Block and McKnight (2010), and selected chapters from Lovenheim (2010, TBD), and Putnam (1999). Assignments will include leading class discussion and writing short essays in response to assigned questions, such as:

  • Define consumer society and give at least three examples, using McKnight’s criteria;
  • Choose three of McKnight’s ‘community possibilities’ and apply them to your life now.
Given the resources and constraints of the neighborhoods you have grown up in, and your experience of community at Hope College, what possibilities exist or can be generated “to nurture voluntary, self-organizing structures that will reveal [community] gifts and allow them to be shared to the greatest mutual benefit”? (Block & McKnight, 2010). You will also start analyzing your own religious tradition (if any) and experience of Christian community both at home and at Hope College. Readings include Palmer and Pipher.

Virtual Community
Here we will begin synthesizing our learning. We will read most of Sherry Turkel’s book (2011, Alone Together) and discuss how you connect with others on Facebook and other social media. How do you find a “place” online? How do you balance your “life mix”? What does “down time” look like for you? How are online spaces different from face to face community? Christian

In this section of the course we will spend time exploring Scotland. We will spend time in both Glasgow and Edinburgh, learning the history and traditions of communities there. We will also spend a week at the Iona community, attending worship and classes, and participating in communal life. Here we will read Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together, and reflect on the possibilities of Christian community. We will discuss and write short essays on:

  • What does it mean to have community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ?
  • How does worship help foster community?
  • How does solitude foster community?
  • How does faith help form the “self” we bring to community?
  • What is the role of mutual accountability in developing healthy community?
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