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Crafting Theology: Toward a Theory of Literacy Smiths

  • Natalie Saleh Baylor University


This ethnography focuses on the literacy practices of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Waco (UUWaco), a liberal faith-based community whose congregation includes members with various religious beliefs. To learn about this community’s literacy practices, I collected discourse-based interviews and participant-observations. My findings suggest that since UUWaco members do not endorse one set creed, they create their own theologies while relying on what I have come to call “multi-religious literacy,” or in-depth understanding of multiple religions and religious texts, through which UUWaco members craft new, individualized theologies. Guided by Deborah Brandt’s “literacy sponsors” and Alanna Frost’s “literacy stewards,” I propose a new term to describe UUWaco members, “literacy smiths.” Literacy smiths are people who seek out a variety of literacy sponsors and then borrow aspects of these sponsors’ literacy practices to create new literacies unique to their own discourse community. This term provides a new lens through which scholars can view literacy practices in religious communities, classrooms, and workplaces.

Author Biography

Natalie Saleh, Baylor University

Natalie Saleh graduated from Baylor University in 2015 with a BA in Professional Writing. She is currently attending Oregon State University working on her MA in English with a concentration in Rhetoric, Writing, and Culture.

How to Cite
SalehN. (2016). Crafting Theology: Toward a Theory of Literacy Smiths. Young Scholars in Writing, 13, 52-65. Retrieved from