The new East Window of St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, London: a window of opportunity for developing ordinary theology through a visual image
AbstractOrdinary theology is a developing concept focusing on people’s explicit religious beliefs, and relying on anecdotal evidence and other academic writers to bridge the gap with academy theology. It has influenced empirical studies of ordinary people’s experience with the Bible, doctrine and cathedral visiting. A feminist qualitative ethnographic study and action research provide other voices as alternatives to this empiricism. Theologians-in-the-arts have appropriated art to illustrate their academic theology. This thesis takes further the use of a visual image, with a recently commissioned non-figurative designed window, by a female Iranian-born artist, in an well-known London church. It enquires how far a non-specific doctrinal and non-narrative window encourages wider public participation in meaning making and metaphor generation, challenging the current static concept of ordinary theology. An interpretative paradigm with perspectives from constructivism, phenomenology, and hermeneutics shapes an inductive and qualitative approach to give attention to regular worshippers and visitors. A visual ethnographic method elicits data through semi-structured questionnaires, interviews, and journal writing. Adopting a ‘lay’ outsider participant role during the fieldwork, unstructured situational interviews with passers-by, street traders and church staff were also undertaken. Interpretive lenses of framing, the pastoral cycle, ethnomethodology, and nitty-gritty hermeneutics assisted in analysing the data. The window attracted a high degree of participation, engaging people in reflection. Over 85% of participants were professional/university and technically educated and competent in academic disciplines other than theology. The respondents initially made non-religious statements challenging ordinary theology, which focussed on explicit religion. When respondents viewed it a second time, they used religious concepts. The analysis led to the construction of ordinary portraits constructed of previously not heard voices and challenged the earlier faces of academic partners. The window is a dialogically framed ‘lived experience’ breaking the ‘is’ of metaphor and the gestalt law of closure. This research explores the ‘is not’ of metaphor. It explores the relationship of image, metaphor and concept by focussing on window parts; the images of centre, line and web. The window becomes both a working metaphor and a model of working metaphors extensively used by these participants. Ordinary theology discovers through feminist metaphorical theology that concepts are metaphorical, focusing on both dissimilarities and similarities. The window as a visual image provides an opportunity to extend the concept and metaphor of ordinary theology. It invites academic professionals to an intensive fieldwork experience using a visual image to rediscover a general process of reflection and to reveal people’s indirect and implicit metaphorical ordinary theology.
CitationBetts, E. J. (2014). The new East Window of St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, London: A window of opportunity for developing ordinary theology through a visual image. (Doctoral dissertation). University of Chester, United Kingdom.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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