• Cosmopolitan Practical Theology and the Impact of the Norming of Whiteness on Chapel Cosmopolitanism

      Knowles, Steve; Graham, Elaine; Marsh, Jill (University of Chester, 2020-09-10)
      In the context of increasing cosmopolitanism across the UK many church congregations are becoming increasingly ethnically diverse, creating what I am calling ‘chapel cosmopolitanism’. This lived experience of congregations calls for a Cosmopolitan Practical Theology. I use Nowicka and Rovisco’s definition (2009:2) of cosmopolitanism as “A practice which is apparent in things that people do and say to positively engage with the ‘otherness of the other’”. From my professional experience I outline the factors that make a Cosmopolitan Practical Theology and argue for a positive engagement with the ‘otherness of the other’ in order to live out the Gospel imperative to ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. In an ethnographic study of the chapel cosmopolitanism of one particular church, I observed the complex layers of interpersonal dynamics within one congregation. In particular I engaged with the work of Marti (2010) on ‘havens’, and also the work of Jagessar (2015) on ‘intercultural habit’, observing the inter-play between the needs for both of these practices. Using a multi-method approach I began to notice the reluctance of older White participants who chose not to be interviewed. While recognizing the need for both ‘havens’ and ‘intercultural habit’ my fieldwork data showed me that, while all my participants had these two needs, yet the need for havens of their own was not recognized by many of my White participants. This White privileging of their own experience as the ‘norm’ prevented the ‘mutual inconveniencing’ that Jagessar considers to be an essential component of intercultural habit. After consideration of the impact of the invisibility of White privilege within this particular congregation, I conclude that the norming of Whiteness becomes an obstruction to the development of a Cosmopolitan Practical Theology. In my conclusion I spell out some of the implications of my research for church life, Practical Theology and my own practice.