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Joining New Congregations – Motives, Ways and Consequences

A Comparative Study of New Congregations in a Norwegian Folk Church Context and a Thai Minority Context


Morten Sandland

Why do people join new congregations? How does this happen? And which consequences does this have for people’s belief and behavior? These are the main questions addressed in this comparative case study from the distinctively different contexts of Norway and Thailand. While joining a new congregation in Thailand in most cases is understood in terms of conversion, what happens in the Norwegian context is mainly referred to as a process of revitalized commitment. However, common in both contexts was that joining a new congregation implied an aspect of religious change. In order to understand this change, the author applies perspectives from contemporal conversion studies, such as Lewis R. Rambo’s typology of conversion, and from anthropological studies of change.
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8 Comprehensive Perspectives


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8. Comprehensive Perspectives

Having focused in separate chapters on the main foci of motives, ways and consequences, I aim in this chapter to discuss some main findings from the two congregations involved in this study from a comprehensive perspective. By doing this, the analysis aims to move beyond a critical commonsense understanding to also include a theoretical understanding.627

First, one of the main findings is that the family was a key factor in both cases. When individuals joined the two congregations, family relations were not only a main motive for joining, but also essential for understanding the way this happened, as individuals often joined the congregations together with or influenced by family members. In addition to this, the preceding chapters have also shown that joining the two congregations had consequences not only for the members themselves, but also for their families.

However, the respondents did not only refer to the family in a literal sense. In both contexts they also directly or indirectly compared the congregation to a family. In the Thai context the comparison was often quite explicit, some members even suggesting that the relationship with members of the congregation compensated for estranged family relations. In the Norwegian context, on the other hand, members suggested more implicitly that the fellowship had traits parallel to those of a family. As the importance of the biological family has been thoroughly elaborated on in the preceding chapters, the following analysis will broaden the...

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