Reassessing Embodiment and Its Role in Developing Digital Literacies for Ministry Amid Pandemic

The Rev. Stacy Williams Duncan, Founder, Learning & Change Strategist

When you worked on research for a while, having come to conclusions after working really hard, the actual journal article can seem a little…anticlimactic.

Kyle Oliver & I talked for a year about really needing to finish up this foundational article and get it out to journals to publish. Our first journal submission wasn’t quite a match, and our research area didn’t interest them exactly. So, we had this article draft that sat around for a while, thinking we would get to it… eventually.

Then Heidi Campbell invited us to propose an article for a special edition of Ecclesial Practices focusing on digital ecclesial practices… 

…and Kyle and I quickly decided to finish the foundational article.

A fountain head pen writing on lined paper.

The most interesting thing about this research and this article is that we would work on it for a time, let it sit and marinate, and then come back and refine it together. Over the couple of years that we finished the research and then the article, the ideas solidified. It became clearer and clearer that it was so important to publish this work.

We believe the Digital Literacies for Ministry (DL4Ms) published in this article are some of the few empirically identified ministry competencies researched in the US and across a variety of denominations. These DL4Ms come from action research in the field and is one reason I am so proud to be part of this.

I hope this foundational article, exposing you to the DL4M concepts and how we came to our conclusions, is helpful to you in your ministry & academic research.

A darkly lit photo of a pile of five books sitting on a table.

Revs. Stacy Williams-Duncan & Kyle Oliver reexamine their Digital Literacies for Ministry (DLMs) for developing connection and community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Williams-Duncan & Oliver define the DLMs as:

  • Navigating hybrid & digital cultures
  • Convening hybrid & digital community
    • Cultivating a spiritually wise digital habitus (centering)
    • Maintaining a posture of experimentation (experimenting)
  • Creating & curating faith based media artifacts
    • Connecting media theory to theological reflection (reflecting)
  • Presenting authentically & pastorally online

Ordained ministers are reprioritizing these DLMs, particularly Creating & curating and, because of the urgent nature of the pandemic timeline- experimenting, as part of necessary professional development. 

A desk by a window featuring a laptop, a white cup of coffee, a notebook with writing and a cellphone.

While Williams-Duncan & Oliver envisioned Presenting as the ultimate integration of all DLMs, though this leads to an assumption of the other literacies as a prerequisite. Given the new paradigm, Williams-Duncan & Oliver have reassessed their Presenting literacy not as the outcome, but as the motivation for continual development.


Williams-Duncan, S., & Oliver, K. M. (2020). Reassessing embodiment and its role in developing digital literacies for ministry. In H. A. Campbell (Ed.), The Distanced Church: Reflections on Doing Church Online (pp. 86–90). College Station, TX: Digital Religion Publications.

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