Browsing Theses by Authors
In the light of a child: Adults discerning the gift of beingGraham, Elaine L.; Nye, Rebecca; Dixon, Stephen W. (University of ChesterManchester Diocese Board of Education, 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.