This thesis contends that a pattern of training entitled Parish Development devised by the author in the course of his professional role as a training officer in the Church of England is a new, versatile and valuable training resource for training and development in the Church of England (and potentially for other churches too.) This pattern of training engages with the congregation as a whole, unlike traditional training methods which focus on the individual who is being prepared for, or supported in, a leadership role within and on behalf of the local church. Parish Development enables a congregation to discover important aspects of its own wisdom by constructing an account of its story, size, purposes, outlook, stage on a life cycle and shared values in belonging to this particular congregation. The resulting account will have implications for the way the congregation organizes its life and activities which usually imply that some improving or developmental action can be taken. The account is also relevant to several issues facing congregations both in the normal course of change, like the appointment and induction of a new vicar, or in more substantial change like merging with another parish or sharing clergy. This new pattern of training has been constructed from insights to be found in Congregational Studies and turned into exercises designed to enhance the self understanding of the congregation as a whole. It employs a pedagogy which draws inspiration from Freire, Vella and Wickett in focussing on dialogue and conversation designed to reveal the wisdom already present within the congregation and to build on that. The notion of the wisdom of the congregation has roots in Aristotleʼs use of phronesis, a concept familiar to practical theologians through the writings of Browning and Graham, but just as importantly, it makes sense to congregational members themselves. The theological purpose driving this pattern of training is the desire to build up the local church as the body of Christ. This accords with the congregation as koinonia, an important ecumenical understanding of the church, which is always in need of oikodome or building up. The research interprets data about the impact of this training on four selected case studies. The data consists of locally published reports of the training events, interviews with participants looking back on what happened, and the results of a questionnaire designed to explore the status of contrasting accounts. It also uses eight metaphors for organizations identified by Morgan to provide further insights into the complexity of what is happening. The method is shown to be versatile enough to respond positively to difficult decisions and changes in parish life. It harnesses a hitherto largely ignored resource to explore and contribute to solving significant problems facing the contemporary church. To demonstrate its implementable validity the thesis concludes with a practical proposal for employing this method to address the challenge of declining clergy numbers. An Appendix offers a theological commentary on Parish Development showing that this proposal is in line with contemporary Anglican ecclesiology.
Clifton-Smith, Gregory J. (University of Chester, 2013-05)
Triggered by a chance pastoral encounter with a nurse who articulated a sense of the presence of God in the midst of existential darkness, this study seeks to explore two underlying questions: “In the context of health care, where is God in the “dark places” of human experience”? and “How is that experience discerned and communicated to others?” It will show how a greater understanding of these questions will add value to the provision of pastoral care in the health care environment by enabling a tailored intervention to be offered that will be to the benefit of the patient and their clinical and pastoral outcome. The research uses insights gained from academia, including theological and health care literature, to explore the former, and a musicological review to explore the latter. These are set alongside qualitative material in the form of case studies and taped interviews. Whilst this study suggests that credible belief in God is possible if God can be seen to be involved with, and supportive of, humanity in the midst of its suffering, it also shows that the way that experience is discerned and thus communicated to others, involves a process of listening and performing comparable with the act of music-making. As with its musical counterpart (incorporating elements of melody, rhythm, dynamics and timbre), this research maintains that the process of pastoral listening and performing is also multi-faceted, existing on a number of different levels. An awareness of these enables the pastoral encounter to begin to be rooted in a process of meaning-making analogous with wisdom emerging out of lament. This research further suggests that one way such wisdom can be discerned is in the way that the lament within the pastoral encounter is itself framed, using musical form as one way of holding in relationship the tradition of faith with pastoral praxis. In using specific examples of music-making as a guide to effective pastoral care, this study concludes with recommended pastoral interventions pertaining to the pastoral practice of healthcare chaplaincy, advocating that through reclaiming the spiritual space and reframing the pastoral encounter, it is still possible for chaplains to model the presence of God.
Contemporary studies in ecclesiology cover a range of issues and contexts. Studies in ordinary theology also deal with a diversity of doctrines. There is, however, no substantial study of ordinary ecclesiology, that is, the understanding of church by ordinary members individually and by local churches congregationally. My personal and professional context is that of an ordained Anglican. In the light of this the study addresses this gap in knowledge by exploring the ordinary ecclesiology of a Church of England congregation. It is an example of an ordinary ecclesiology contributing a thick description (Geertz 1973) of a particular congregation to studies of church. The focus on ecclesiology is driven by issues raised in the literature review which demonstrate that the mainstream denominations in Britain face particular challenges such as numerical and influential decline. The study is based on a two year ethnographic study of a commuter village church in a united benefice of four churches. The ethnographic study, based on participation in and observation of the church on a weekly basis, includes interviews, conversations, a focus group and an examination of the written data generated in the church (web-site; publicity; church newsletters; magazines; documentation). This qualitative data is analysed using a form of interpretive dualism (Soja 1996) which emerged as an appropriate method during the research. Three binary pairings describing ways of thinking about church are used: instrumental – ontological; temporal – transcendent; patron – subscriber. The research demonstrates how this local church goes about theological thinking on the idea of church and reveals the content of that thinking. The study concludes that ordinary theology is present in the local church but that it is largely unacknowledged as such and is mainly a personal or individual enterprise. The implications of this are discussed. That discussion concludes that ordinary theology needs to be seen as the task of the whole λαός of God rather than the task of the laity and that in order to do this the local church needs to be re-imagined as a theological community where theological thinking is encouraged and resourced. This discussion centres on the importance of ecclesiology as a key doctrine in the Church of England’s contemporary context. The study therefore makes a contribution to knowledge by identifying and articulating what the ecclesiology of a local church looks like. It contributes to and challenges current practice by proposing rethinking the nature and purpose of the local church.
Raistrick, Tracey A. (University of Chester, 2013-12)
This thesis is a critical account of a qualitative, evaluative study into the translation processes and practices in use within the BSL Bible Translation Project, undertaken as a collaborative doctoral studentship funded by the AHRC/ESRC1. It has proceeded collaboratively, valuing the stories, knowledge and experiences of the participants. The data‐set presented herein was generated by means of participant observation and interviews with Project Team members. It was analysed in its digital, visual form using an inductive, thematic approach, and is presented with minimal commentary (Chapters 4 and 5). Following this presentation, the data‐set is further reflected upon in order to shed light upon existing understandings of sign language text composition strategies, team translation praxis, intermediality and sacrament (Chapters 6, 7 and 8). The evidence presented in this thesis represents a new source of data and offers valuable insights into translation and exegetical practice in its own right and, I will argue, as a means of human flourishing. This thesis problematizes previous descriptions of Signed Languages as ‘picture‐languages’, identifying two ways in which such descriptions have been unhelpful, even inaccurate. Firstly, that this nomenclature, with its association with picture‐books and pre‐linguistic skills, has contributed to the persistence of perceptions of d/Deaf people as being linguistically less‐able than their non‐Deaf peers and secondly, that such descriptions are deficient because they fail to fully capture the complex nature of Signed Languages. This thesis argues for a re engagement with the inherently cinematographic nature of Signed Languages and explores ways in which this would yield benefits in the fields of Deaf education, the teaching of Signed Languages to second‐language learners, and the training of interpreters and translators. This thesis will also argue that the translation practices of the BSL Bible Translation Project constitute a clear example of Deaf people engaging in metalinguistic reflection on their own language‐use. That is, that the data provide clear evidence of literate thought, specifically of Signed Language literacy in action, and is further evidence in support of the growing confidence and agency within the Deaf Community with regards to the status and the rich linguistic and material properties of BSL, including its suitability as a mediator of the sacred. This thesis will go on to offer reflections on what the data have to tell us about the nature of Biblical texts; both through how they are produced, and the nature of those texts as artefacts and bearers of religious meanings. Engaging with existing understandings of sacrament and incarnation, including the possibility that the act of Bible reading and translation can be said to constitute a sacramental activity, it argues that this is particularly so when such reading and ‘speaking’ of the text occurs through Signed Language.
English Cathedrals have an established and valued place in their respective locations. Their central role is to provide “the seat of the bishop and a centre of worship and mission”. The contention is that whilst there may be clarity about mission in terms of worship, education and interpretation of the building, there is less clarity about where the energy should be focused in terms of a wider missional role. Recent reports have sought to measure the social and economic impact a cathedral has in terms of its local environs and its reach in terms of social and spiritual capital. The cultural context suggests a rapidly changing religious landscape where the movement, in a consumer society, is away from obligation and traditional forms of religiosity towards a more open understanding of spirituality with freedom to explore, to sample and to choose what to consume. This research approaches mission from a spiritual perspective. It creates also an outer/inner approach from which to establish its empirical work. As such it is concerned with the construction of theory; it follows an inductive approach, though is openly disposed to an inductive-deductive interaction where appropriate. It provides an in-depth methodology based on a case study scenario utilising the qualitative techniques of focus groups and semi-structured interviews through which to collect the data. There are four data-sets each presenting an outer/inner perspective. Of unique interest was the appearance of a sizeable Occupy camp, occupying the site outside the case study cathedral for fourteen weeks raising fundamental questions about economic and social inequality at a time when austerity measures were beginning to take effect. This critical incident drew the cathedral into a more public engagement with the big questions that impact upon our daily lives. A key finding from the empirical work in the case study is that alongside its ecclesial focus the perceived core priority must be its mission to the city through its invitation and welcome but also through its outreach. I use social capital theory to engage with aspects of ‘bonding’ and ‘bridging’. Beyond the functionalist approaches, cultural and symbolic capital enables a more reflexive understanding of institution and cathedral habitus. This moves the analysis from the horizontal to the vertical axis by which ‘linkages’ are made with mechanisms of power and issues of justice and care. This facilitates further dialogue with global flows and their impact on daily life which integrates with the critical incident that was Occupy. Further analytical methods were incorporated to engage with these macro themes. The theological investigation emanates from within three spiritualities, ‘ecclesial’, ‘mystical’ and ‘prophetic’. It seeks to focus on the spirituality of the community, the community’s engagement with the consumer-led ‘spiritual turn’ and its bridging/linking role in the wider community. As a theological device I use a typology taken from the reading of the psalms to convey orientation, disorientation and new orientation. It coheres in particular with themes of disenchantment and the search for deeper meaning. This thesis contributes to the field of knowledge and the corpus of literature by proposing a model of cathedral mission that draws upon its spiritual and social capital to engage within the liminal spaces of emergent spiritualities, and the contested spaces of disorientation and disenchantment recasting fresh theological moorings to engage meaningfully with issues of justice and care. The outcome is reflective, dynamic and strategic, “creating new understandings of existing issues” and interacting with “disparate concepts in new ways”.
Lane, Rosalind A. (University of Chester, 2015-06)
This thesis identifies ‘imprisoned grief’ as a new phenomenon. The Living with Loss project was a theological, spiritual and practical response to it co-constructed by the research participants and myself as the practitioner-researcher. The project ran from 2008-2011 at both HMP Kirkham and HMP Whitemoor. My initial findings highlighted the fact that ‘disenfranchised grief’ (Doka 1989) and ‘self-disenfranchised grief’ (Doka 2002) were inadequate descriptions of what I uncovered in my research. Doka himself (2002, p18) called for further research to be carried out in particular circumstances including prison, encouraging my own confidence in the importance of such research. ‘Disenfranchised grief’ is a condition which people feel when unable to access support from family, friends, religious and professional organisations in living with issues of grief and loss. It is exhibited by prisoners where the acute loss of family, relationships, home, employment, finance, education and ability to parent come together. Issues of loss and bereavement accumulate when a parent or other family members becomes terminally ill or dies during their imprisonment. ‘Self-disenfranchised grief’ is a self- initiated form of disenfranchised grief where the self will not allow grieving to take place. I consider that neither description fully explains the condition I encountered, which I have called ‘imprisoned grief.’ Imprisoned grief is distinctive because it manifests itself due to the loss of freedom brought about by imprisonment; during anticipatory grieving whilst in prison; following bereavement in prison and loss acts as a factor in criminal behaviour which include loss due to homicide. My research offers spiritual, theological and practically distinctive coping strategies and insights into how imprisoned grief can be ‘unlocked’ and prisoners can feel liberated from it. Enfranchisement was established between family members by sharing feelings and emotions in group work and through the composition of and facilitation of faith rituals. I argue that it was their beliefs and spirituality which sustained, combated and freed them from ‘imprisoned grief’.
Dixon, Stephen W. (University of Chester, 2012-06)
The researcher is a diocesan adviser for Children’s Ministry, charged with promoting the importance of children for the Church, and the study examines issues arising from this professional responsibility. Children’s advocates often suggest that adults have much to learn from them in the Church. It is commonly assumed that this learning will derive from their presumed characteristics such as ‘innocence’, or ‘playfulness’. However, these characteristics are not exclusive to or universal among children. The aim of this study is to investigate the ‘specialness’ of children and discover if there is something peculiar to childhood that would merit Jesus placing a child in the midst of his disciples as a signpost to the kingdom of heaven. The primary data source is the researcher’s journal of his experience as a member of a multi-generational church group, and the study employs a qualitative methodology drawing on Grounded Theory and some of the practices of autoethnography. The importance of a relationship between experience and theology for Practical Theology is noted and the influence of experience on theologians explored with reference to Schleiermacher, Miller-McLemore and the theological reflection of ‘ordinary’ Christians. The analysis of the researcher’s journal is developed as an example of experience-grounded personal theological reflection. The results achieved by the study show that the most powerful personal effects of the multi-generational group on the researcher did not reflect the children’s attributes per se but rather his own characteristics as revealed in relationship with the children. Interviews with the other adult members of the group, and Christian adults who work with children in contrasting situations, support the view that the effect of children on adults is influenced by the individuals concerned. The personal factors influencing the adults’ experience are thematised, and the questions these themes evoke are seen as indicating the theological potential of reflection on the adult/child interface. The study concludes that one aspect of the ‘specialness’ of children arises from their vulnerability and the nature of the relationship this creates with adults. The ‘special value’ of children to the life of the Church, it is suggested, includes the opportunity they give adults to view their own ‘being’ as God-given ‘gift’ by exploring how it can serve God’s purposes in promoting the flourishing of the vulnerable. The possibility of promoting such exploration among individual Christians and Church communities is considered. The findings of the study are seen as having implications for a less romanticised portrayal of children’s importance in the Church; for promoting better intergenerational relationships; for grounded theological conversation within and beyond the Church; for recruitment to Children’s Ministry; and for the researcher’s professional practice.
The past fifteen years have witnessed a growing engagement with disadvantaged urban neighbourhoods on the part of UK charismatic-evangelical churches. Yet this has received little attention within previous academic studies across a variety of disciplines (voluntary sector studies; the sociology of religion; Christian social ethics; and evangelical, charismatic and Pentecostal theology). In addressing these gaps, this study achieves two main purposes. Firstly, it enables greater understanding of charismatic-evangelical motivation and urban practice. Secondly, it reflects theologically on such motivation and practice, and articulates a distinctive practical charismatic-evangelical urban social ethic. To do this, the study drew on models of practical theology to integrate qualitative research with theological reflection. Given the under-researched nature of the subject area, an exploratory, inductive, and multi-method research approach was chosen. This combined an ethnographic study of a charismatic-evangelical urban church with focus groups in a further three charismatic-evangelical churches. Analysis of the qualitative data gathered led to the identification of six tensions that characterise contemporary charismatic-evangelical urban practice. An engagement with other bodies of literature then found that all six tensions have some resonance with the findings of previous research in voluntary sector studies and the sociology of religion. However, it also revealed that the experience of UK charismatic-evangelical urban churches challenges certain established understandings in these disciplines. The task of (more explicit) theological reflection involved a series of facilitated dialogues between charismatic-evangelical urban practice and theoretical approaches to Christian social ethics. These dialogues then led on to an attempt to construct a distinctive practical charismatic-evangelical urban social ethic. This is presented as a creative response to the tensions encountered in charismatic-evangelical urban practice that is both consistent with charismatic-evangelical convictions and open to insights from other traditions. The thesis makes two main contributions to academic knowledge. Firstly, it brings a greater understanding of charismatic-evangelical urban practice to the disciplines of voluntary sector studies and the sociology of religion. Secondly, it represents both a contribution and a challenge to established theoretical perspectives in Christian social ethics and evangelical theology. Contributing as it does to a variety of academic disciplines, as well as enhancing institutional and professional knowledge, this is a not a prepositional thesis, but a foundational one. As such, it opens up a new field of enquiry and sets out theoretical conceptions intended to provoke further scholarly enquiry and reflective practice.
A new model of mission is emerging among participants in the urban ministry of the Eden Network which reimagines evangelical identity and missiology. The Eden Network is a charismatic evangelical organisation which has engaged in incarnational urban ministry for the last nineteen years. In the course of my roles as a staff member and as a local participant observer, I identified tensions arising for Eden team members between their inherited evangelical theology and their experiences of mission in urban communities. This research aims to explore this dissonance, identifying the subcultural narratives of evangelicalism and the ways in which these narratives are complicated by lived experience.
Rawlings, Philip J. (University of Chester, 2017-07)
Issues concerning the integration of migrant communities into United Kingdom society have once again become the subject of national debate, with the publication of the Casey Review in December 2016. In the aftermath of terrorist incidents in Manchester and London, as well as the 2016 Referendum vote for the United Kingdom to leave to the European Union, the reported rise in racially motivated hate crimes and an increase in both antisemitism and Islamophobia, the necessity of developing healthy relationships between communities is imperative. When considering the question of whether segregation is on the increase or not Cantle and Kaufman conclude that while minority ethnic communities are dispersing there is significantly less mixing with the ‘White British’ communities, who seem to be withdrawing from mixed areas. The need for integration is vital. This research starts with the premise that religion is part of the solution, not a part of the problem. This qualitative research explores ethnographically the process of interfaith dialogue, by participant observation of three different groups over a five-year period, with intense reflection over the last three years. These groups were made up of Muslims and Christians, and Hindus in one group, all of whom had a deep personal faith in their respective religions. Using Salim Munayer’s Musalaha Six-stage Cycle of Reconciliation, which was pioneered in the Israel-Palestine context of 25 years of dialogue practice among Messianic Jews and Palestinian Christians, the research adapts and builds on this model, for use in interfaith dialogue, developing a fresh definition of ‘interfaith dialogue’ and a method of interfaith dialogue appropriate for the UK context. The thesis makes three main contributions to academic knowledge. First, it presents a new definition and fresh approach to interfaith dialogue with relevance for the UK context, which is particularly relevant for devout believers in their respective religions, to stand alongside other models. Second, the results of the research identify a list of fourteen key themes, including identity, faith and reconciliation, which deserve further analysis. The research methods indicated that there are many more issues that, with further analysis, might be profitably explored. Third, that following the six-stage cycle the path to reconciliation, although remaining hard, is nevertheless achievable, especially for those whose faith provides the motivation and drive to engage at depth with the other.
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