Sacred Ambiguity: Group Inclusivity and Distinctiveness at First Community Unitarian Universalist

Master's Thesis


If strong social identities, which create clear boundaries between in-groups and out-groups, are more effective in retaining and recruiting members and increasing the salience of in-group identities, why, and under what circumstances, do groups persist in formulating weak, and ambiguous group identities and group boundaries? What is to be gained by boundary resistance? Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork at a liberal congregation, I demonstrate that “weak” boundaries, rather than representing merely the absence of strong boundaries, represent an achieved identity, requiring effort and intention on the part of both parishioners and church leaders to sustain. If we are to analyze group means for boundary maintenance, I argue that we must also analyze group processes and motivations for boundary disruption and decay.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04152015-140730

Author Peter Ryan
Advisor Erika Summers-Effler
Contributor Erika Summers-Effler, Committee Chair
Contributor Lynette Spillman, Committee Member
Contributor Mary Ellen Konieczny, Committee Member
Degree Level Master's Thesis
Degree Discipline Sociology
Degree Name MA
Defense Date
  • 2014-12-17

Submission Date 2015-04-15
  • United States of America

  • group boundaries

  • ethnography

  • religion

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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