• Borrowed silence: A history of the practice of retreat in the Church of England

      Parker, Stephen; Greggs, Tom; Morris, Wayne; Tyers, John H. (University of Liverpool (University of Chester), 2012)
      This thesis, which is the first attempt to write about the growth of retreats, deals with a rather sidelined but important development in the history of spirituality. It states when, how and why the practice of retreat was adopted and adapted in the Church of England after having been a devotion in the Church of Rome since the time of the Catholic Reformation and how it has developed since. It is divided chronologically into three major sections. The first tells the story of its adoption in 1858 by a group of Anglo Catholics in the form of the preached retreat and its subsequent spread to a small number of adherents, despite meeting opposition from Evangelical Christians. The second tells of the influence of a Jesuit brother, Charles Plater, and how after the First World War a number of Diocesan retreat houses were opened, the use of which continued to rise until after the Second World War. The third takes the story up to our present day with its adaptation to the needs of the present search for faith, its decline accompanying the present loss in membership in the churches whilst at the same time its adoption in various forms by non-Anglican groups. In particular it contains a history of the Society of Retreat Conductors. All the time comparison is made with what was happening in the Church of Rome. There are resonances with the history of the Victorian church, the attitude of the established church to the working classes, evangelism, the changing fortunes of Anglo Catholicism, the ecumenical movement and New Age Christianity. It is of interest to all who are concerned about spread of religious faith today.
    • The Gift of Leaven: A new feminist theological praxis for urban church

      Dawson, Claire L (University of Chester, 2019-09)
      This thesis documents my research quest into the post-regeneration community of Bootle, North Liverpool. A Housing Market Renewal Initiative had decimated the area. As a Church of England minister, I was struggling to find signs of life and had no theological paradigm in which to situate my ministerial practice. My argument is that the current arborescent theology and practices of the Church of England have excluded the phronēsis of white working-class women and have failed to deliver a life-sustaining praxis for urban church. I argue for a reprioritisation of the poor and the inclusion of marginalised voices; allowing these voices to shape and define the academy as opposed to letting the academy shape which voices are to be heard. I came to this research holding a feminist and liberative theological standpoint: prioritising and privileging the voices of women and those on the margins. My research design adopts a feminist and narrative methodological framework in its quest to uncover the hidden phronēsis of the Bootle women. The transcripts of their lives are analysed using a thematic network analysis which generates three global themes: hope; placed and particular; and the death space. This thematic network is the main finding of my research quest and is the Gift of Leaven: the distilled phronēsis of the Bootle women. This research project is multidisciplinary. The Gift of Leaven is brought into conversation with voices from social science; public urban theology; feminist theology; and urban geography. Through a spiralling process of theological reflection the strands of a new feminist theological praxis for urban church are defined. What I produce in this thesis is a new feminist praxis for urban church from the underside of life and from voices that are notably absent from academia and ecclesiology. This new praxis is not a carefully-crafted mission action plan of how the Church should engage in urban life. What is offered instead is a new way of seeing and feeling the urban. This is situated within the lo cotidiano and objects of the ordinary and is revealed through fragments; it is new women’s knowledge coming to birth in women’s story and women’s song. It does not readily offer quick social or theological fixes to life’s fissures. It provides a way of flourishing and life from a different paradigm, and that paradigm is the phronēsis of the Bootle women. It is the women themselves who become the heralds of good tidings and the God bearers. They bring the Gift of Leaven for the whole community so that bread may be baked and the wounded body fed. The task is now to make space so their voices can be heard.
    • In the light of a child: Adults discerning the gift of being

      Graham, 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.
    • What is the meaning of equal marriage in the Church of England?

      Henwood, Gillian (University of Chester, 2019-01)
      The Church of England’s traditional theology of marriage between one man and one woman is protected in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 from reforms to civil law to include same-sex couples. Within the Church of England, same-sex couples who enter civil unions (of partnership or marriage) are not permitted to have a service in church to celebrate with prayer for God’s blessing. Clergy in civil partnerships are not permitted by the Church of England to convert their union to civil marriage if they hold a bishop’s licence to practice. This research questions the meaning of equal relationships, both marriage and same-sex unions, to test three of the benefits of marriage asserted by the Church to the UK Government: mutuality, fidelity, and the biological complementarity of the couple with the possibility of procreation (Church of England, 2012). A methodology of practical theology, where my practice-based research leads to theory that reforms practice, fosters dialogue among voices of theology within the context of the Church of England. A postliberal interdisciplinary approach recognises plural meanings within my research field and adopts narrative methods for data generation, analysis, interpretation and presentation. Theologies of equal marriage and union, interpreted from narratives co-constructed with my participants, are brought into conversation with premodern liturgies for blessings of unions of Christian harmony and peace, seeking a fusion of horizons expressed through performed ritual. This research argues that two of the Church’s benefits of marriage, mutuality and fidelity, are embodied in all participants’ marriages and civil partnerships, but challenges the Church’s third benefit, because it is stated as derived from acknowledgement of an underlying biological complementarity of the couple. Changes in the legal and social contexts in England, academic research literature in the fields of gender and sexuality, and evidence from research participants’ lived practices lead to reinterpretation of the third benefit as responsible choices for parenting and the nurture of children in a pro/creative relationship. Implications for the Church of England are that emerging theologies in this research mandate policy changes, to lift the Church’s prohibition of services in church after same-sex civil unions and to pilot new liturgies of blessing. For mixed-sex couples to marry each other in a liturgy of Christian equal marriage, this research offers two areas for light revision of the Church’s contemporary liturgy to provide alternative options: gender-neutral language and rubrics, and nuanced language expressing loving intimacy rather than specific emphasis on sexual union. These changes will enable the Church of England to renew Christian marriage based on a recovered and reinterpreted theology of Christian unions of harmony and peace, so that couples can celebrate in church with prayer for God’s blessing either through marriage or a service after their civil union.
    • When the personal Call to Ordained Ministry is not recognised by the Church: Implications for Selection and Pastoral Care

      Routledge, Robin; Dyer, Anne; Gubi, Peter M. (University of ChesterUniversity of Chester, 2019-05-01)
      The effect of not being recommended for ordained ministry when a person is convinced of their personal Calling can be devastating, and it is a phenomenon that is under-researched. The research question is: ‘How does having one’s sense of vocation for ordained ministry rejected by the Church impact at a psychological and theological level?’ The aims of the research are: To explore how having one’s sense of vocation for ordained ministry rejected by the Church impacts on individuals at a psychological and theological level; and to better understand the implications for selection and pastoral care. The core purpose of this research is to enable better pastoral care during and after the discernment and selection processes. Structured by Swinton’s and Mowat’s (2006) Practical Theological Reflection model and contextualised within the Church of England, eight Diocesan Directors of Ordinands (DDOs) [Stage 1] and nine non-recommended applicants (NRAs) [Stage 2] were interviewed to determine their experience of selection and how they theologically and psychologically made sense of non-selection. The data were analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. In Stage 1, four superordinate themes emerged: Vocation; Selection processes; Theological perspective; Pastoral care; along with thirty-seven subordinate themes. In Stage 2, four superordinate themes emerged: Pursuing ordination; BAP experience; Pastoral care; Making sense; along with twenty-three subordinate themes. The thick data reveal the lived experiences and ‘sense-making’ of the participants from psychological and theological perspectives. In reformulating revised practice, a number of recommendations are made, that: a) the way that vocations are ‘marketed’ and encouraged needs refocussing; b) the vulnerability surrounding the process of responding to Calling to ordained ministry is akin to a ‘coming out process’; c) appropriate training is provided for incumbents and congregations to raise their awareness of the issues surrounding non-recommendation; d) incumbents be in Pastoral Supervision; e) training be given to Vocations Advisors, DDOs and Bishops which highlights the ways that spiritual abuse and inappropriate behaviour can occur in the discernment process; f) dioceses work more coherently to establish ‘best practice’ in the discernment process; g) safeguarding systems be put in place centrally to which candidates can complain/appeal when perceived spiritual abuse or inappropriate behaviour occurs; h) there is greater transparency in the sharing of reports and references with applicants; i) Canon C4 be reassessed; j) counselling be offered to candidates throughout the process of discernment, and after, as needed; k) the value of the BAP process be re-evaluated; l) opportunity for debriefing immediately after the BAP be offered; m) the wording of reports consider the impact of the words on the recipient; n) the discernment process pays attention to other forms of vocation than ordained ministry; o) issues of sexual discrimination are mitigated against and prohibited.
    • Working with the wisdom of the congregation: Theology, learning and organizing in the local church

      Baker, Christopher; Impey, Richard (University of Chester, 2013-05)
      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.