• Disrupting the Rituals of Grief: Conflict, Covid-19 and the Fracturing of Funerary Tradition

      Critchell, Kara; University of Chester (Peter Lang, 2021-09-01)
      This chapter considers the disruption of the funerary ritual during the Covid-19 pandemic and reflects on the connections between these disruptions and state intervention in funerary practice during the Second World War. Through an analysis of how such intervention has occurred, and the language of sacrifice that has been evoked in both instances, it will be suggested that the fracturing of the formal rituals of death and commemoration has not only led to complicated grief amongst individuals, but that it could also result in long- term societal trauma.
    • Book Review: Planning in the Early Medieval Landscape, by John Blair, Stephen Rippon and Christopher Smart

      Pickles, Thomas; University of Chester (Oxford University Press, 2021-08-12)
      A book review of John Blair, Stephen Rippon, and Christopher Smart, Planning the Early Medieval Landscape (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2020).
    • Review of Ecofeminist Science Fiction: International Perspectives on Gender, Ecology, and Literature

      Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester (The Science Fiction Foundation, 2021-08-06)
      Book review of Ecofeminist Science Fiction: International Perspectives on Gender, Ecology, and Literature, ed. Douglas A. Vakoch (Routledge, 2021, 232pp, £120).
    • Eastern Presence: Metropolitan responses to the Indian Army, 1914-15

      Grady, Tim; Ewence, Hannah; Dawson, Owen J. (University of Chester, 2021-08)
      The mobilisation of the British empire during the First World War created new spaces for encounter between British and Indian society. Between August 1914 and December 1915, the Indian army dispatched over 100,000 Indian servicemen to the Western Front as part of Indian Expeditionary Force A. The thesis’s objective is to improve understanding of how Western and, more specifically, British society responded to the presence of these Indian servicemen. It reconsiders British perspectives of the Indian solider, reflects upon how these perspectives impacted the discourse which surrounded the sepoys, and the effect it had on the Indian army’s colonial hierarchy. As a result, ‘Eastern Presence’ furthers understanding of British conceptions of racial identity and colonialism within the context of the First World War and demonstrates the impact that these conceptions had on the Indian army’s hierarchical structure. To achieve this goal, the thesis uses the geographical and locational settings experienced by Indian servicemen during their stay in Western Europe to analyse their interactions with various parts of British and Western society. Through its analysis of these interactions, ‘Eastern Presence’ challenges much of the existing historiography by arguing that variances in conceptions of race can be identified, depending on the part of British society which experienced the encounter. It consequently concludes that British society demonstrated varying degrees of knowledge, empathy, and perception towards the colonial ‘other’ in its midst.
    • The Posthuman Trajectory of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Universe

      Hay, Jonathan; University of Chester (Burrowing Wombat Press, 2021-06-30)
      When Isaac Asimov began to expand the fictional universe of his acclaimed Foundation Trilogy in 1982—almost thirty years after the publication of its prior entry, Second Foundation (1953)—he did so with the express intention of assimilating its continuity into a unified “history of the future” with his Robot and Galactic Empire series. Although the Foundation Universe has received little critical attention to date as a unified series, the analysis of it cumulatively reveals its significantly mundane and repetitive aspects. Demonstrably, the rhetorical function of such banal components renders the series conspicuously posthuman.
    • Spirit-Centred Personhood: re-reading anorexia nervosa through a feminist practical theological frame

      Graham, Elaine; Babb, Julie B. (University of Chester, 2021-06)
      Anorexia nervosa is a ‘frequently lethal illness’ (Watson et al, 2019). Watson et al make this assertion as they and other researchers seek to understanding the role that genes play in the illness and its lethality. Recent biological research such as this has vastly extended knowledge about anorexia, as has recent psychological and sociological research into the illness. However, researchers in these areas acknowledge that understanding of anorexia remains insufficient notwithstanding the new knowledge that they are generating through their painstaking work (Nunn et al, 2011). I argue across this thesis that biological, psychological and sociological models of anorexia are unable to generate more sufficient understanding because they are limited by the binary opposition that structures discourse in the West. I claim that this limitation results from the way in which Aristotle’s metaphysical figuration of the subject of discourse as a universal male continues to frame subjectivity in the West: a framing of subjectivity that I argue the experience of female anorexia brings into view when engaged in an interdisciplinary dialogue with feminist practical theology. In order to respond to the limitation that inheres in biological, psychological and sociological models of anorexia, and to generate more sufficient understanding of the illness, I develop a model of spirit-centred personhood through which to embody subjectivity and women with anorexia. I establish a reflexive narrative methodology to underpin the dialogic nature and dialectic movement of the theoretical framework of this model. I argue that these combine through the relational subjectivity that is embodied by the intrapersonal and interpersonal dimensions of the traits of my model. My model of spirit-centred personhood thus enables me to respond to the research problem in two important ways. First, it enables me to generate knowledge from an embodied and sexuate location as it frames my engagement with the philosophy of Luce Irigaray, my key conversation partner. Second, it enables me to employ that knowledge to embody subjectivity in theory and women with anorexia in practice. In enabling me to respond in these two ways, my model assists me to achieve the overarching aim of this research project: namely, to enable women with anorexia to recover and sustain recovery across time.
    • Pauline Slave Welfare Ethics in Historical Context: An Equality Analysis

      Bennema, Cornelis; Holland, Tom; Thompson, William H P (University of Chester, 2021-05)
      While many assume that human equality is incompatible with slavery, equality theorists argue that any equality claim must be further defined. They also claim that every coherent ethical system presupposes an implied equality and inequality when it requires “identical” treatment for those it considers similar enough and “different” treatment for others it views as dissimilar. This thesis deploys a heuristic equality analysis to distinguish between the different kinds of equality that may be implied by a text’s ethical reasoning—a text’s equality ethic. It distinguishes between an egalitarianism that seeks to eliminate certain differences between persons; the “identical” treatment of “numerically-equal” persons regardless of those differences; the “variable” treatment, proportionate to a particular attribute, of persons who share that attribute to a variable degree; and “different” treatment between persons who are deemed dissimilar because of those differences. The equality analysis in this thesis on slavery compares how slaves and free persons were treated in antiquity. It demonstrates how Pauline scholarship on slavery neither defines nor consistently reasons about equality. While scholarship has stressed Pauline exhortations for slave obedience, the thesis focuses on scholarship’s neglect of Paul’s exhortations for slave welfare. The thesis reconstructs the equality reasoning of Paul’s possible ethical sources—Aristotelian natural slavery, Seneca’s slave welfare, the Torah’s slave welfare texts (Exod 21; Deut 5:12–15; 15:12–18; 21:10–17; 23:15–16; 24:7; Lev 19:20–22; 25), and Philo. The thesis reconstructs a Jewish numerically equal treatment ethic between slave and free that imitates Yahweh’s impartiality, and demonstrates its best conceptual fit for Paul’s slave welfare ethics. The thesis justifies Paul’s inclusion of the slavery pair in his unification formula of Gal 3:28 and argues that Paul’s unification formulae (also 1 Cor 12:13; Col 3:11) imply the numerically equal treatment of their ethnic and slavery pairs. The thesis argues that Paul’s exhortations for slave welfare in the Colossian and Ephesian Haustafeln (Col 4:1; Eph 6:9) place the Jewish numerically equal treatment and imitation ethic into a Christological framework that urges slave-masters to imitate how God is impartial between slave and free in their treatment of their slaves. The thesis also argues that Paul’s twofold purpose in composing his epistle to Philemon was to urge Onesimus’s inclusion within Philemon’s pre-existing slavery ethos, which was already compliant with Paul’s ethics on slave welfare, and for Philemon to send Onesimus back to Paul. Paul did not need to specify a new slave welfare ethic for Philemon to adopt.
    • Jesus in an Age of Enlightenment: Radical Gospels from Thomas Hobbes to Thomas Jefferson. By Jonathan C.P Birch

      Greenaway, Jonathan; orcid: 0000-0001-5636-7707 (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2021-02-07)
    • Faithful science: Teaching intelligent design to Evangelical students

      Fulford, Ben; McKitterick, Alistair J. (University of Chester, 2021-01-03)
      This research project addressed the question ‘to what extent, if at all, does teaching intelligent design to evangelical students contribute to their confidence and ability to share their faith?’ The context of the professional doctorate is my role as an evangelical theology lecturer at Moorlands College. The problem that motivated the research was feedback from students relating their Christian faith to questions and objections presented to them in their ministry context about science generally and Darwinism in particular. I locate the intelligent design argument within the broader debate over the relationship between science and religion. Intelligent design is an expression of concordism, the most integrative of Tenneson et al’s paradigms (conflict, compartmentalism, complementarianism, and concordism). The approach adopted for this professional doctorate was Norton’s pedagogical action research and Osmer’s model of practical theology. During the first cycle of action research, I piloted the Discovering Intelligent Design course covering a range of scientific topics supporting the design argument for full-time students on campus. The second action research cycle involved teaching the course again as a more formal Saturday School event for part-time evangelical students off campus. Eight participants took part in semi-structured interviews, and a further seven formed a focus group. I undertook thematic analysis of the interview transcripts and triangulated the results with the focus group transcript. The narrative analysis of participant responses described the pressure felt from the hegemony of a materialist worldview that presented Darwinism as ‘fact’, especially within a school environment. Participants felt the DID course enabled them to challenge the dominance of that worldview with scientific evidence supporting a theistic worldview. They believed there was a need to think about the relationship between science and faith within the church to equip young people to retain their Christian faith. I initiated a cycle of Osmer’s model of practical theology to reflect christologically on the thematic analysis and generate theologically-laden praxis. These themes were critically correlated within Osmer’s sagely wisdom phase to understand more deeply what was going on. Critical insights were gained through transdisciplinary reflection including discourse analysis, sociology and philosophy of scientific worldviews, critical consciousness and political hegemony, forces of marginalization, and anti-teleological child-psychology. The democratic, liberative nature of teaching intelligent design was framed as ‘common science’. An important theological disclosure was identified in Osmer’s prophetic discernment phase: teaching intelligent design was discerned as teaching a contemporary parable and an extension of Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God. Like the parable of the sower, intelligent design provokes different reactions; it empowers the marginalized and challenges institutional power that denies God’s presence and power. The revised praxis of Osmer’s servant leadership phase included locating teaching intelligent design within a broader biblical ministry, identifying the conflict between materialistic and theistic worldviews rather than between science and faith, communicating this transformed perspective at conferences to encourage churches to engage more with science, and developing intelligent design as part of an apologetics module. Support was offered for the CoRE policy to restructure RE classes as ‘Religion and Worldviews’, and a development of the DID course to teach others to lead it was proposed as an expression of proclaiming the kingdom of God and sowing seed on good soil.
    • Protectoral Rule in the North Western Association: the role and consequence of military and civil governance in the north west of England 1655 to 1657

      Gaunt, Peter; Williams, David A. (University of Chester, 2021)
      This thesis is a study of the role and consequence of military and civil governance in the Protectoral government’s North Western Association. It seeks to understand how the creation of the association contributed to the security and maintenance of unopposed Protectoral rule. It examines the impact on traditional structures of local government and communities within the association. Ultimately, it shows that uninterrupted control over the association’s regions contributed to the continued stability of Cromwell’s Protectorate. The first chapter examines North Western society’s religious and political allegiances in the aftermath of the civil wars and finds that, while the parish continued to play a prominent role within the community, some political adversaries of the same ascribed social status within county society continued to maintain pre-war social relationships. Chapter two assesses the role and impact of state imposed martial governance within the association and finds that central government’s policy of promoting godly reform to counter irreligion reaffirmed measures previously pursued by godly officials and magistrates. The third chapter examines the backgrounds and careers of the association’s two major-generals, Charles Worsley and Tobias Bridge, and finds that, before his death, Worsley was the driving force behind the instigation of measures to deal with anti-government activities and godly reformation. Finding that the association’s three county militias were wholly remodelled in 1655, chapter four assesses their reorganisation and role, along with that of the regime appointed commissioners for securing the peace of the Commonwealth, as well as the work of the magistracy. Chapter five considers the efficacy of raising revenues through sequestration and finds that more than sufficient funds were raised by way of the levied decimation tax to maintain the association’s three new troops of horse militia. The sixth chapter examines the parliamentary election campaign of 1656 and considers its relevance to the Northern anti-government rising staged by Sir George Booth in August 1659. It finds that many of the same protagonists at the centre of the election campaign of August 1656 were also at the heart of the events of Booth’s rising. The thesis concludes that the imposition of military governance ensured that stable unopposed Protectoral rule was maintained throughout the life of the North Western Association and that Tobias Bridge’s oversight of the association lasted well into 1658.
    • Convergence and Asymmetry: Observations on the Current State of Jewish-Christian Dialogue

      Vincent, Alana; University of Chester (Equinox, 2020-11-06)
      Drawing on a survey of forty-five statements on the status of Jewish- Christian dialogue, this article argues that the theme of convergence which underlies a substantial portion of this dialogue programme arises from an asymmetric power relationship, in which Christian institutions have been insufficiently attentive to the issue of Jewish self-understanding.
    • The Literary Places of Mary Cholmondeley and Mary Webb: Women Walking and Interacting with the Shropshire Countryside

      Wynne, Deborah; Walker, Naomi (University of Chester, 2020-11)
      This thesis will demonstrate the importance of Mary Cholmondeley’s and Mary Webb’s novels, short stories, poetry and essays by showing their part in the literary heritage of Shropshire. Both writers drew on their experiences of living in Shropshire villages for their inspiration. This thesis will highlight the significance of the work of these now little-known authors and will draw attention to the feminist arguments which were implicit in their work. By highlighting the instances of women walking and interacting with the countryside in their short stories and novels, I will show that both authors indicated the necessity for greater rights for women in society in the early part of the twentieth century. The independent and freethinking heroines who feature in their novels and short stories provide important feminist representations which deserve greater visibility in studies of this period. As such, this thesis will be useful to scholars studying New Woman writers and their depictions of women. By stressing the influence of Shropshire on each author’s work, I hope that they will stand comparison with A.E. Housman, whose poetry is influenced by that region. This thesis will provide a critical study of Cholmondeley and Webb and I have produced a number of G.I.S. maps to emphasise the connection they had with Shropshire. These provide an alternative way to study their work. This online and accessible resource should engage new audiences to their work. The Introduction to the thesis will set out the connections that both writers had with the county. It will also provide an overview of critical texts associated with Space and Place studies that have influenced my research, as well as relating Cholmondeley and Webb to some of the other women writers who were writing at the same time. Chapter One focusses on Cholmondeley’s writing, arguing that her work displays an implicit feminism. She depicts heroines walking and interacting with the countryside in both her novels and short stories as part of her argument that women desired more independence in the early part of the twentieth century. This chapter also assesses the influence of Shropshire on Cholmondeley’s work and argues that, even when living away from the county, it had a great impact on her writing. Chapter Two will show that, whilst Mary Webb’s connection to Shropshire has already been well established, few academic studies have been written about her work. I argue that, by portraying the mobility of women within the rural landscape in her novels, poetry, essays and short stories, she addresses the larger political issue of women’s rights. This chapter also analyses the work of many of the literary pilgrims who visited Shropshire specifically in search of the places that inspired Webb’s writing in order to show the unhelpful ways in which they have mythologised her life and work. Chapter Three will analyse the G.I.S. maps which I have produced in order to argue that mapping can lead to a greater insight into the work of these two authors. It will also point out the growing use of interactive technology in contemporary literature studies. Links to my G.I.S. maps, and more information about them, can be found in the Appendix to my thesis. The Conclusion demonstrates the continuing legacy of Cholmondeley and Webb in order to stress their importance, not only to the literary landscape of Shropshire, but also to the wider literary culture.
    • Black French women and the struggle for equality, 1848–2016. F. Germain & S. Larcher (Eds.). Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 2018, ISBN 978-1-4962-0127-0

      Griffiths, Claire H.; University of Chester (emerita) (Taylor and Francis, 2020-10-29)
      This articles reviews fourteen essays focusing on the often unacknowledged contributions Black women have made, and are continuing to make in the fight for equality in metropolitan and 'overseas' France.
    • Pre-Pandemic Ethics: Triage and Discrimination

      Clough, David L.; Adam, Margaret B.; University of Chester (Hymns Ancient & Modern, 2020-10-12)
      UK COVID-19 death rates are disproportionately high among Black African, Black Caribbean, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, and Indian people in the UK, as well as among care home residents, carers, essential workers, and people living with disabilities and pre-existing conditions. The effects of the pandemic demonstrate the systemic social disparities of life and death in the UK. This is the context in which the authors consider Christian pandemic ethics, and this calls for a shift of focus away from pandemic ethics to what we term ‘pre-pandemic ethics’.
    • Reading Across the Human-Animal Boundary: The Animalising Affliction of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4

      Collins, Matthew A.; Atkins, Peter J. (University of Chester, 2020-10)
      A major aspect of the narrative in Daniel 4 is the imagery employed to describe the affliction received by Nebuchadnezzar when he is driven from his throne. It is plain that as part of his affliction he will live as an animal, however the degree to which he actually becomes an animal is less clear. This unusual depiction of the king’s affliction has intrigued numerous subsequent readers and has provoked two predominant lines of interpretation: either that Nebuchadnezzar undergoes a physical metamorphosis of some kind into an animal form; or diverse other ways of reading the text that specifically preclude or deny an animal transformation of the king. This thesis addresses such bifurcation of interpretative opinion about Nebuchadnezzar’s affliction, examining why such interpretation is so divided and demonstrating ultimately how neither of these traditional interpretations best reflect the narrative events in Daniel 4. Firstly, I survey the range of previous interpretations of Nebuchadnezzar’s affliction and how they can broadly be grouped into these two general trends. I examine in detail the various texts and forms of the narrative to show how metamorphic interpretations of Daniel 4 are largely reliant upon later developments within the textual tradition and are not present in the earliest edition of Nebuchadnezzar’s animalising affliction. However, while the various editions of Daniel 4 seem to contain no explicit evidence that a metamorphosis was ever intended, I also show that it is equally inadequate to state that the king does not undergo an animal transformation at all. Turning to the wider ancient Near Eastern context of the Danielic narrative, I examine a range of Mesopotamian texts which appear to conceive of the human-animal boundary as being indicated primarily in relation to possession or lack of the divine characteristic of wisdom. Demonstrating how various Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Jewish texts appear to reflect the same conceptual idea, I argue that the narrative in Daniel 4, through the king’s loss of reason, in fact represents a far more significant categorical change from human to animal than has hitherto been recognised. This thesis therefore demonstrates that both traditional readings of Nebuchadnezzar’s animalising affliction are inadequate. Read instead in the context of this the narrative of Daniel 4 describes a more subtle yet much more profound crossing of the human-animal boundary.
    • The Dilemma of Chaplaincy to Chieftaincy in Ghana for Pentecostal Denominations

      Dyer, Anne E.; Sainsbury, Susan; Goodwin, Leigh; Routledge, Robin; Yidana, Gabriel N. (University of Chester, 2020-10)
      The lack of Pentecostal denominational ministry with chieftaincy in Ghana is a missional challenge, and it is an area that is under-researched. In order to address the dilemma of Christian chaplaincy to chieftaincy, a thorough investigation into the relationship between Christianity and chieftaincy is necessary for the formulation and implementation of missional policies. This dissertation uses a historical account with a qualitative research approach in the present, to examine whether chaplains can be appointed to the Institution of Chieftaincy (IoC) and how that might work. Starting from a position of opposition to involvement with the IoC in the early 20th Century there was no way Pentecostals would participate in then pagan perceived rituals. So, it is revolutionary to suggest that Pentecostals can become chiefs and yet now many are, so that there are Christian chiefs’ associations. Therefore, my proposal is a practical one: to offer chaplaincy like ministry to chiefs, Christian or not, from a Pentecostal position so as to have a missional support from churches to chiefs’ councils and thus to the community. I interviewed 50 participants from Christian and traditional leaders to determine their experience and view of Christian ministry to the IoC. The data were analysed using thematic analysis that revealed three global themes: Perceptions of the IoC; Role of chaplaincy in transforming the IoC; Calls for chaplaincy involvement in chieftaincy; along with thirteen organizing themes and twenty-one basic themes. According to the data, chaplaincy could facilitate bridging the gap between both institutions through the provision of spiritual care and expressed the need for active Christian participation with chieftaincy. In order to facilitate chaplaincy as a missional practice to the IoC, the following recommendations are made, that: there is a need for developing a) biblical alternatives relating to chieftaincy cultural practices as seen from the data; b) a theology of chieftaincy; c) a theology of both the anointing for leadership for chiefs and kings and d) the role of chaplains as prophets and priests to chiefs.
    • Towards a New Homiletic

      Shercliff, Liz (SAGE Publications, 2020-09-11)
      Feminism’s contribution to homiletics so far has arguably been restricted to exploring gender difference in preaching. In 2014, however, Jennifer Copeland identified a need not merely to ‘include women “in the company of preachers” but to craft a new register for the preaching event’. This article considers what that new register might be and how it might be taught in the academy. It defines preaching as ‘the art of engaging the people of God in their shared narrative by creatively and hospitably inviting them into an exploration of biblical text, by means of which, corporately and individually, they might encounter the divine’ and proposes that in both the Church and the Academy, women’s voices are suppressed by a rationalist hegemony. For the stories of women to be heard, a new homiletic is needed, in which would-be preachers first encounter themselves, then the Bible as themselves and finally their congregation in communality. Findings of researchers in practical preaching discover that women preachers are being influenced by feminist methodology, while the teaching of preaching is not. In order to achieve a hospitable preaching space, it is proposed that the Church and the Academy work together towards a new homiletic.
    • Pureland Buddhism and the Post-Secular: Dharmavidya’s Summary of Faith and Practice.

      Dossett, Wendy; Ollier, Richard J. (University of Chester, 2020-09-10)
      This thesis demonstrates that Summary of Faith and Practice by Dharmavidya David Brazier is used by its writer and readers to establish a ‘post-secular’ identity for the Pureland Buddhism of the Amida Order, in contrast to the self-proclaimed ‘secular’ identity of some other forms of Buddhism. This contemporary, British-centred and predominantly convert Pureland Buddhism has been largely overlooked in the analytical scholarship of British Buddhism. The thesis contributes to knowledge by focussing on a text which plays a significant part in the life of the Order. It relates the text to the broader context of an ongoing debate between ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ Buddhism as Buddhism continues to spread beyond Asia. Using my location as an ‘insider’ within the Amida Order, I adopt a research methodology borrowed from the discourse analysis of Michael Hoey, and from documentary theology. I employ this methodology to demonstrate how the text is constituted by its authorising tradition, its writer, its ideal readers, and its actual readers as a form of post-secular Buddhism. By emphasising Pureland’s ‘religious’ characteristics and how these are, in part, established with reference to Christianity, the thesis challenges any assumption that contemporary British convert Buddhism is exclusively ‘secular’.
    • Patterns of Power, Power of Patterns: Exploring Landscape Context in the Borderland of the Northern and Central Welsh Marches, AD 300-1100

      Gondek, Meggen; Williams, Howard; Ainsworth, Stewart; Duckers, Gary L. (University of Chester, 2020-09-10)
      Scholarship regarding the early medieval Welsh Marches is frequently disparate and disjointed. Studies have concentrated on the analysis of monuments, in part because of the paucity of early medieval archaeology upon which to create a tableau conducive to macro landscape-based research. Where syncretic works in the Welsh Marches have attempted to adopt an interdisciplinary approach, they are often dated, not embracing, or utilising new techniques or methods. This is exacerbated by approaches in archaeological remotes sensing that have focused on methods or only producing dots and lines on a map, rather than its application and integration into theoretical frameworks widening further the divide between theory and practice. Combined, these approaches also fail to integrate fully within discourses emerging in border studies, a critical field of study when analysing border regions. To tackle these challenges, this thesis examines the borderland landscape of the North and Central Marches using traditional geographical and archaeological techniques, combined with GIS and remote sensed methodologies such as lidar to offer new insight into processes of power and how that is reflected in the landscape. This research targets not only landscape morphology but embraces border theory on the expression and apparatus of power emphasising the ‘borderland’ as an active agent in territoriality and social processes. This study has analysed remote sensed data and data sets that have previously been underutilised and combined theoretical concepts into a holistic body of work. New or misinterpreted archaeological sites have been identified, adding to the archaeological knowledge of the region and facilitated an enhanced picture of the early medieval landscape. In addition, the interrelationship of boundaries and sites hitherto unrecognised in the Welsh Marches have collectively opened new avenues and concepts to underpin and augment further research on dyke systems and border formation processes.
    • Mission in Suburbia: Theological Resources to Empower Missional Practice Within Small, Suburban Congregations

      Wilson, Keith G. (University of Chester, 2020-09-10)
      The practice of mission within small, suburban congregations has been widely overlooked by academic and Church institutions. Marginalised by their cultural context and struggling to maintain an already weak position, such churches could be dismissed as having little to offer contemporary missiology. This research believes that small, suburban congregations have an important missional role that, once resourced, is of value to the wider Church. The aim of this research is to reflect upon theological resources which could empower missional practice within small, suburban congregations. This reflection adopted a cyclical process of theological reflection. This reflective cycle or ‘Doing Theology Spiral’ used experience, reflection, exploration and action to create an ongoing pattern for missional reflection. This research began with an analysis of the missional experiences of selected small, suburban congregations. The gathered data highlighted aspects of the missional experiences of these congregations such as varied understandings of mission and tensions regarding the context for missional practice. In addition, the perceived strengths of such congregations were not commonly regarded as missional assets. This data was compared to published research. In the literature review, the practice of mission has received sustained attention over a long period. However, the mission of small, suburban congregations in Britain was largely absent from contemporary missiological debates. A range of theological resources were considered. The resources were regarded as important to the missional practice of congregations but, frequently overlooked or undervalued. These included context, activism, social action, and a sense of belonging. The sense of missional crisis suggested a need for other theological resources, notably missio Dei and a focus on the mission of God. This research discovered that a radical re-interpretation of missional practice within small, suburban congregations is required to challenge widespread stagnation and decline. In this research, it emerged that congregations required greater clarity and confidence regarding the theological resources available to them which could empower their missional practice.