Spirituality Study - Call for Participants!

June 11th and 12th

will bring visiting scholar and researcher Gloria Neufeld Redekop, PhD, to West Hill. 

She is hoping to engage WHU congregants and adherents as she continues her research

into "Finding a Spirituality That Works for You".


Research Project Summary

Topic: Finding a Spirituality That Works for You: A Quest for Meaning in a Complex World


My previous book, Bad Girls and Boys Go to Hell (or not): Engaging Fundamentalist Evangelicalism, is a study of the history of fundamentalist evangelicalism, a look at the movement’s attachment to a literal-factual interpretation of the Bible, and an analysis of the experiences of seventy individuals who left the fundamentalist evangelical movement. I discovered that leaving fundamentalism is often a slow, painful process, accompanied by guilt, loss, and loneliness. Invariably, individuals look for something else to replace what they have lost. Some are left confused and without spiritual direction. Others find a spirituality, either within or outside religion, that seems to work better for them than what they experienced within fundamentalist evangelicalism.

This research showed me that one’s spiritual experience is quite unique to one’s person. There is not a cookie cutter solution that works for everyone. Thus, my current research involves looking at how people go about finding a spirituality that works for them. What does that spirituality look like? Is it derived from their religion? Is it dependent on religion? Or is it separate from religion? Is it related to spiritual practices? Does their personality type have anything to do with finding a spirituality that is satisfying to them?

Focus of the Research

My research project will begin by examining the meaning of the word “spirituality” historically and its relationship to religion. It will then look at trends of how individuals define spirituality today and what spirituality means to them.  It will analyze the process individuals go through in order to attempt to arrive at a satisfactory spirituality and will determine what kind of spiritual experience and practice is important to them. Through this project I hope to discover both the process individuals go through in their search for a meaningful spirituality and the elements of spirituality that are important to them. I also hope to determine whether there is a relationship between one’s experience of spiritualty and one’s life circumstances and personality type.

Literature Review

The term “spirituality” has many definitions and nuances. It has been defined both within and outside of religion. The term “spiritual but not religious,” having its origin in the Alcoholics Anonymous movement in the 1930s, has frequently been used in the last decades. The literature review will examine definitions of spirituality, both historically and currently; both within religion and outside of religion.


The initial part of my research is to conduct a literature review on spirituality in order to arrive at what was meant by spirituality historically and what it means today. Subsequently, through a qualitative analysis of approximately fifty semi-structured interviews and five focus groups I hope to discover how people define spirituality today. I will then be able to compare this with the results from the literature review. Through these interviews and focus groups I will inquire about the process by which individuals work towards trying to arrive at a satisfactory spirituality; the actions/practices that contribute to their spirituality; and influence of life circumstances and personality on their experience of spirituality. Interviewees’ names will be obtained through conference organizers; organizations; and academic and religious institutions. Focus groups will be organized within these organizations and institutions. Interviews will be conducted in person, by phone, by Skype or by email. Verbal interviews may be digitally recorded and transcribed.

I am anticipating that interviewees will fall into one of at least three categories. First, I will interview people from the three Abrahamic religions who are currently within a religious group that still holds meaning for them. Second, I will interview those who were once a part of a religious body and have been confronted by ideas and/or events that called their belief system into question. Their worldview may have changed and so they needed to develop a different kind of spirituality that worked for them in a complex world. And third, I will interview those who have never been affiliated with any religious group.