Action Research as a Way of Doing Theology (ART): Transforming My Practice of Preaching the Bible with My Congregation
AbstractThis thesis explores action research as a way of doing theology (ART). The contours of ART emerged through a collaborative inquiry into my practice of preaching the Bible within the context of congregational worship. It began with a niggling question, “What was happening in the communication space between me and my congregation?” An action research pilot project (March-April 2006) with Cumnock Congregational Church (Minister, 1998 - 2008) prepared the ground for a collaborative inquiry with Witney Congregational Church (Minister, 2009 - present). With the latter congregation we developed Word Café, an adaption of Brown and Isaacs World Café (2005), as a method of creating communicative space (Wicks & Reason, 2009) in which we explored our experience of what happened when I preached a sermon and examined what, if any changes, occurred during the period of November 2010 to July 2011. This is ideographic research and as such engages in first and second person inquiry, weaving together the voices and insights of participants. In the first person I integrate my spiritual formation and academic development with my vocation as a preacher. In the second person I give an account of the way in which I entered into a collaborative relationship with my congregation to research my preaching practice and their experience of it. I have constructed a narrative of a self-reflexive, critical examination of a single case (Gustavsen, 2003; Reason, 2003) of iterative cycles which encompass the process of co-planning and of the Word Café. My intention is to make a wider contribution to the practice of preaching by modelling ART as a dialogical, relational way of being, and to inspire other preachers and congregations to develop their own ways of reflecting on their practices and experiences of preaching the Bible in their own contexts. Arising out of my inquiry into my preaching practice is the concept of ART which has the potential to create and nurture dialogical space in the exploration and transformation of various aspects of congregational life. This is a contextual, emergent, and interdisciplinary account shaped by narratives of learning. The actions we took in attempting to create communicative space yielded the themes of a fresh hearing of the Bible, listening with my eyes, and exploring my own insider-outsider positionality, in particular through narratives of wisdom and power, silence, and affections. Central to the practice of ART is the growth of the qualities necessary for being authentic as a practitioner-researcher. I set out to demonstrate the way in which the development of attentional practices increased my awareness as I navigated the insider-outsider positionality of a preacher and researcher.
CitationBoyd, J. C. (2015). Action research as a way of doing theology (ART): Transforming my practice of preaching the Bible with my congregation. (Doctoral dissertation). University of Chester, United Kingdom.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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