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Telling Our Stories: Towards an Understanding of Lived MethodismGraham, Elaine; Llewellyn, Dawn; Edwards, Graham M. (University of Chester, 2018-12-19)This thesis argues that a thorough understanding of Methodism must attend to the lived experience of Methodist people, expressed within Methodist church communities. I use narrative research methods to show the nature of local Methodist identity. This research was conducted using group interviews with participants from three Methodist churches in West Yorkshire. In analysis of these interviews, a ‘narrative of place’ is revealed: this is how participants talk about the experience of their church’s ‘space’ and make sense of their belonging. It communicates a shared sense of identity in each context. Through the narrative of place, I identify the shared experience of ‘lived Methodism’ that reflects my participants’ belonging within a Methodist church and within that tradition. In 1932, three independent Methodist church groups, each with their own practical and theological emphases, united to form The Methodist Church of Great Britain. The contemporary Methodist Church claims and cherishes its place as a ‘wide’ church, accepts a diversity of practice. Therefore, attempting to define Methodist identity can be problematic. This thesis argues that Methodist identity is not merely given to the church by the Methodist Connexion, or as a function of meeting in a Methodist building, instead it is appropriated and lived locally. A series of two group interviews in three Methodist communities generates the data recorded in the form of transcripts. Using a narrative research methodology to interrogate this data, I expose the narrative of place and its three core emphases, these show how lived Methodism is revealed in my work. Initially, place and community demonstrates how community is formed locally. Using Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of habitus, I argue that the language of place and community functions in setting the boundaries of that particular group in both conscious and unconscious ways. The community thus governs its practice and ecclesial identity. Secondly, place and memory is outlined. In the three church narratives, memory is used to claim validity for the current expression of the community, and to articulate the values the community wishes to highlight. These two areas highlight how the local churches own and understand their identity, leading finally to an analysis of place and tradition. This demonstrates an understanding of what it means to be a Methodist church. There exists a local tradition focussed on 'being the church here and now’, which is fed by a received tradition mediated by those who are part of a broader Methodist narrative. The interface of these two modes of tradition creates a contextual Methodist tradition in each setting. I argue that it is here that a rich understanding of Methodism exists. Methodism is not a gift offered to a community, but a lived reality, claimed and valued by those who tell its story. The local narrative of place allows the lived experience of Methodism, in local church communities, to be heard and understood.