Under the advisement of Dr. Craig Vondergeest, associate professor of religion, Summer Fellow Joseph Kovas is spending the summer researching a continuation of the Methodist tradition, the revived Methodist class meetings. Kovas is a senior religion major.
Kovas’ asks the question of if the modern day small group meetings in Methodist churches a continuation of the Wesleyan class meetings. This question came out of the observation that many congregations in South Carolina have developed small groups as a part of their discipleship ministries.
“During the 18th-century evangelical revival in Great Britain, John and Charles Wesley created their own system of small groups within the Methodist movement,” Kovas said. “The Wesley brothers developed a polity system that focused on Christian discipleship in groups known as societies, classes, and band meetings.”
Kovas has traveled across the state to study and analyze small group ministries of churches today. He has observed ministries in Anderson, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, Spartanburg, Greenville, and Charleston.
“Joseph is an enthusiastic student of John and Charles Wesley and the Wesleyan movement in 18th-century England,” Vondergeest said. “Working independently, he identified a topic that is being widely discussed by some of this country’s top Wesley scholars—the relationship between the class meetings started by the Wesley brothers and a similar movement taking root in contemporary Methodism.”
“Working with United Methodist churches, which are a part of the South Carolina United Methodist Conference, I have met with countless ministers and congregation members, and even participated in small groups to discover if these groups are a continuation of the Wesleyan class meetings.”
Kovas was inspired to work on this project while doing research for his capstone project on the historical development of the class meetings. He was interested in this project because of a desire to know how churches can use small groups to help members grow as disciples of Jesus Christ.
“I want to develop this project further for my own use in my honors research, in seminary, and in my life’s work with my future congregations,” Kovas said.
“The insights that are emerging from Joseph’s research will make him the go-to person among his future ministerial colleagues on Wesleyan class meetings for years to come,” Vondergeest added.
He plans to graduate in the spring of 2018 and enroll in seminary. Kovas is currently seeking to become a candidate for ordination in the United Methodist Church. He is the current senior class president and has served in the student government association for the past three years. He is an active member of Broad Street United Methodist Church, where he has worked with the congregation to develop a campus ministry. He has been a member of the PC chiro since his freshman year and the Cantare men’s choir since sophomore year.
Before coming to PC, Kovas was named South Carolina Eagle Scout of the Year by the VFW. He recently received a scholarship from the National Eagle Scout Association.
The PC Summer Fellows Program is designed to enhance the academic experience of PC students by providing them with opportunities to work with faculty during the summer. The program is intended for motivated students to gain research experience with direct faculty mentoring. Students experience the process of research as a creative intellectual activity in a living-learning environment.
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