Kate Pickering

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Kate Pickering's MPhil/PhD Art research project

Lakewood Megachurch: Bodily Dis/Orientations in a Climate of Belief

This interdisciplinary project examines the entanglements of body, belief and site through an examination of evangelical megachurch imaginaries within destabilised ecological contexts. The megachurch is defined as a church with more than 2,000 in weekly attendance, although globally, a significant proportion reach the tens and hundreds of thousands. I focus on North America’s largest megachurch, Lakewood, based in Texas, which deploys scale, spectacle and performance to immerse believers in its story-world. Through theoretical and experimental writing I explore how the individual and collective body is oriented within the site. The believer’s gaze is directed heavenward toward victory and success, away from complex realities.

Setting out from new materialist understandings of the body as entangled in a web of relations and combining philosophy, visual and literary theories, I draw on my position as exvangelical and my own experiences of megachurch evangelicalism to analyse the story-world of Lakewood. Using Mieke Bal’s schema of ‘narrative,’ ‘story,’ and ‘fabula,’ I examine how Lakewood’s immersive multi-sensory texts form a ‘total work of art,’ conveying ideological imaginaries of belonging, order, progress and comfort. I consider how embodied response produces affective atmospheres, a ‘climate of belief’ in which bodies weather unequally. The racially diverse congregation are caught between a sky-bound gaze and earth-bound realities of a locale threatened by hurricane, flooding, subsidence and pollution.

Alongside the dissertation, my experimental text There is a Miracle in Your Mouth is formed of memoir, research and speculative fiction. Informed by a practice of floating and new materialist thought, it reorients the megachurch. Through writing the religious building-body as a fluid, porous and emergent phenomenon, a body/ site that is always enmeshed in ecological connections, I highlight the certainties of belief and the disorientation of disbelief as a bodily and materially produced phenomenon, disrupting the solidity, simplicity and sky-bound orientation of the evangelical narrative.


  • Prof. Michael Newman/ Prof. Kristen Kreider
  • Dr Bridget Crone


Lakewood Church worship (2013)

ToBeDaniel (license)