Roman R. Williams

Roman Williams


  • BS Messiah College
  • MDiv Columbia International University
  • ThM Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
  • PhD Boston University

Academic interests

My favorite courses to teach are introductory sociology (SOC 151) and the sociology of religion (SOC 311). Other areas of teaching interest include visual research methods, cultural sociology, globalization, and global Christianity.

Learn more about my research here.

Research and scholarship

I have recently published Seeing Religion: Toward a Visual Sociology of Religion (May 2015, Routledge). This edited volume advances a conversation between visual sociology and the sociology of religion in which authors present original research findings, explain visual research techniques, and engage methodological issues. Likewise, questions of reflexivity, research ethics, and engaged scholarship run throughout the book and receive chapter-length treatment. Seeing Religion is the first book-length treatment of visual research methods in the sociology of religion. More information is available at

I was awarded a Congregational Studies Visual Methods Fellowship ( to develop ways visual research techniques may be used to study and engage congregations. Specifically, this 18-month (July 2014-December 2015) fellowship involves three small-scale studies:

(1) Congregational Self-Portraits. I will field test an exercise that uses participant-produced photographs to visually document and generate conversations within congregations and their neighborhoods. 8-10 participants at two research sites will generate a congregational self-portrait, which will take the form of a photo essay or a short video montage that employs participants’ images and narratives to tell the congregation’s story.

(2) Empowering Congregations through Photovoice. I will explore ways the technique known as photovoice can empower congregations and their communities to voice their concerns, challenges, hopes, and triumphs. Two congregations and 10-15 participants at each research site will test and refine the method. Participants will display their photos in a public setting (e.g., the participating congregation). A gallery-like opening will include participants briefly discussing their images; titles and brief descriptions near each photograph will orient subsequent viewers to the story of each image. 

(3) Evaluating Change through Photo Elicitation Interviews. I will develop ways to use photo elicitation—participant-produced images used as prompts in interviews—to evaluate congregation-based social change and renewal programs. Field test the methodology by evaluating a program at one congregation.

Several articles on the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship website discuss my engaged scholarship:

"Roman Williams on Peeling Back Layers of Meaning in Church Life"

"Visualizing Worship: Sparking Conversations about Worship and Life"

"How to Use Photos to Spark Worship Conversations"



2015Editor. Seeing Religion: Toward a Visual Sociology of Religion. London and New York: Routledge. Details available at

Journal Articles

Under Review. “Engaging Congregations through Photovoice.” 

Forthcoming. “Visual Tools for Visual Times: Innovation and Opportunity in the Visual Sociology of Religion.” Revista Ciências da Religião—História e Sociedade.

2015   “Photo Elicitation and the Visual Sociology of Religion” with Kyle Whitehouse. Review of Religious Research 57(2):303–318.

2013   “Constructing a Calling: The Case of Evangelical Christian International Students in the United States.” Sociology of Religion 74(2):254–280.    

2010   “Space for God: Lived Religion at Work, Home, and Play.” Sociology of Religion 71(3):257–279.

Book Chapters

2015   “Visual Sociology and the Sociology of Religion.” Pp. 1–21 in Seeing Religion: Toward a Visual Sociology of Religion, edited by R.R. Williams. London and New York: Routledge.

2015   “Why Study Religion Visually?” Pp. 192–200 in Seeing Religion: Toward a Visual Sociology of Religion, edited by R.R. Williams. London and New York: Routledge.

2012   “Speaking of Methods: Eliciting Religious Narratives through Interviews, Photos, and Oral Diaries” (with Nancy T. Ammerman). Pp. 117–134 in Annual Review of the Sociology of Religion, Volume 3: New Methods in the Sociology of Religion, edited by L. Berzano and O. Riis. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill. 

Engaged Scholarship/Public Sociology

2016   “Religion, Migration, and Change in a European City. Contexts: Understanding People in their Social Worlds. A publication of the American Sociological Association. 

2016   “Sociological Perspectives on Worship” (with Mark T. Mulder). Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Available at

2016   “When a Picture is Worth 1000 Words: Visual Program Evaluation.” Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Available at

2016   “Walking with Cameras.” Available at

2016   “The Art of Change.” Arts-Based Research Exhibit (May 3–29). First United Methodist Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

2016   “Reflections on Family Life.” Arts-Based Research Exhibit (February 25–26). Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

2016   “Engaging Congregations with Photovoice.” Available at 

2015   “Visual Research Ethics and the Study of Congregations.” Available at

2015   “Bringing Programs into Focus: Photo Elicitation as a Tool for Program Evaluation.” Available at

2014   “Congregational Snapshots: Understanding and Engaging Congregations through Cell Phone Photographs.” Available at

Book Reviews

2016   Review of Angel Patriots: The Crash of United Flight 93 and the Myth of America (A. Riley, 2015) in Sociology of Religion 77(2):214-215.

2015   Faith on the Avenue: Religion on a City Street, by Katie Day.” Sociology of Religion 76(3):365–366.

2014   “Visual Sociology, by Douglas Harper; Doing Visual Research, by Claudia Mitchell, and Advances in Visual Methodology, by Sarah Pink.” Sociology of Religion 75(1):167–169.

2013   “Places of Faith: A Road Trip Across America’s Religious Landscape, by Christopher Scheitle and Roger Finke.” Sociology of Religion 74(2):286–288.

Other Publications

2012   “An Invitation to Sociology.” Pp. 259–277 in Faith and Learning: A Handbook for Christian Higher Education, edited by David S. Dockery. Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing.

2012   “Missionaries.” In The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Globalization, edited by George Ritzer. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. DOI: 10.1002/9780470670590.wbeog395.

2012   “Tanr?’ya Yer verme: ??te, Evde ve E?lencede Ya?ayan Din.” Turkish translation of “Space for God: Lived Religion at Work, Home, and Play” (2010) by Mesut Inan. Journal of Sakarya University Faculty of Theology 14(25):211–235.

2009   “Picturing Religion in Everyday Life.” Sociology of Religion: Newsletter of the Sociology of Religion Section of the American Sociological Association 11(1):4–5.


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