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Halifax divinity student studies 'juxtaposition' of holy hipsters

03/04/2015 06:15 EST | Updated 05/04/2015 05:59 EDT
It's crunch time for divinity student Kristin MacKenzie as she works toward the completion of her degree, and she's focused on the topic of her final project — holy hipsters. 

"It's an amazing juxtaposition to see people with Blundstones and plaid and cool moustaches putting on cassocks and walking in solemnly to worship God in this way," said MacKenzie, who's currently doing a placement with the chaplaincy at the University of King's College in Halifax.

She's getting ready to present her work — titled Coffee, Cardigans and Common Prayer: A Study of #HolyHipsters — at the Atlantic School of Theology next week. 

She wanted to explore how Anglican hipsters practise their faith, and how the church speaks to them.  

"The strongest connection made between holy hipsters and secular hipsters is they're just fed up with complacency and consumerism and materialism and want to harken back to a time when things were a bit more genuine," MacKenzie said. "Even if that time maybe never existed."

They want to shake things up and live differently than their parents' generation, says MacKenzie. 

'I think I have hipster qualities'

For her project, MacKenzie interviewed nine people between the ages of 20 and 33 from Canada and the United States. Aside from religion, they had another thing in common. 

"I had a tape recorder set up and [said], 'Just for the record, can you tell me that you're a hipster?' And they would either laugh, or curse and say 'No.' The answer across the board was no," MacKenzie said.     

She asked them why they had agreed to the interview if they didn't consider themselves hipsters.

"The telling moment was always, 'Someone told me I'm a hipster' or 'I think I have hipster qualities … I maybe have a hipster nature,'" said Mackenzie. "They'd find subtle ways of … having an ironic detachment to the title."   

The holy hipsters, who don't identify as hipsters, did identify with wanting to create change. 

"They say we should be praying for people, but we should also just take a stance. The church should stand firmly on where it is with racism, with abuse, with oppression," MacKenzie said. 

Church communication 

She's still working through her findings, but MacKenzie said the key take away from this research is about communication. 

"We can be very hard on the grey-haired set of the church and say, 'They don't understand hipsters. They don't understand people in their 20s,'" she said. 

"[Holy hipsters] see the rest of the world changing to appeal to them. They don't think the church needs to change, the church just needs to show what it has in a different way."

#HolyHipster

MacKenzie created the hashtag #HolyHipster to attract potential research subjects. It's a hashtag that makes people cringe, she says. 

"There's something ironic about attaching the ultimate symbol about 'What follows is cool' to something with the church because the church is not cool," she said.

Church is a counter-culture, like being a hipster is a counter-culture, MacKenzie said. She'll know both counter-cultures inside and out by the time she's ordained in the Anglican church in June.  

But does she consider herself a hipster? 

"Maybe because I spent my year doing this research and I've lived among them, it may have rubbed off a bit, but I still wouldn't say I am — which of course I realize the trap I put myself in by saying that," MacKenzie said.

"But I have hipster qualities."

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