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Verbum et Ecclesia

On-line version ISSN 2074-7705
Print version ISSN 1609-9982

Verbum Eccles. (Online) vol.29 n.1 Pretoria  2008




Hybrid Identity. Exploring a Dutch Protestant community of faith



R Brouwer

Protestants Theologische Universiteit, Utrecht




Communities of faith develop their identity in dialogue with changing social and cultural contexts. This article presents a single case of identity formation in a local congregation of the Protestants Church in the Netherlands, in a changing environment. Out of one specific congregational practice, namely the liturgical (non)-affirmation of same-sex marriages, the complexity of identity construction in a plural and diverse congregation is shown. From a qualitative empirical research perspective, the details of a congregational practice are unfolded in an ethnographic, thick description of the identity. All the different aspects and voices with regard to the congregational practice together give shape to an identity gestalt. The outcome of this detailed research into one practice of a community of faith is that identity is under construction. Unambiguous and uniform congregational identities are rare. In this particular case the identity is even diffuse. The church council and the congregation members find it difficult to state their identity in a positive way and to find agreement on that. The 'hybridisation' of identity is presented as a concept that can shed some light on the nature of identity formation. In a global world, integrated contexts and integrated cultures and identities no longer exist. Contextualisation is a never-ending process. Hybrid identities are construed out of different fragments. Identity construction results from a process of negotiation. This asks for transparant communication and a constructive dealing with differences. As a community of difference, the church as koinonia receives its identity in dialogue with all who are involved. The outcome of this dialogue should be beneficial to not only the congregation but also to its social and cultural environment.



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1 Research Associate, Prof J C Müller, Department of Practical Theology, University of Pretoria.

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