Register for the 15-17 September 2023 Conference in Durham
The Ecclesiology and Ethnography Network are pleased to announce that registration is now open for their September conference in Durham! This year, registration will take place directly with St. John’s College. As always, if you need to book extra nights either before or after the conference you do so directly with St. John’s conference services. Register for the conference!
If your paper is accepted for presentation, you still have to register for the conference. Please register and pay before August 1, 2023. After that date all accepted papers without registration and payment will be removed from the conference program. After you have registered and paid, your paper is formally accepted for presentation.
Call for Papers: September Durham Conference
There are still a few slots open for paper presentations! Papers that explore the dynamic relationship between the theological and the lived-in ecclesiology are welcomed. It is a wide-ranging conference, and part of the joy is discovering a diversity of specialisms. Past papers have included ethnography, systematic theology, ecclesiology, practical theology and social science approaches. Attendees range from senior scholars to doctoral students and local ministers. This is also an excellent place to present as a post graduate or early career researcher, or as a pastor/scholar in ministry. Learning is generously shared and critiques are supportive.
Booking for our April 2023 training has now opened. Our theological action research training is aimed at doctoral students and researchers. It is interactive and conversational and takes place on Zoom. Based around the 5 characteristics of theological action research it is designed to equip participants with the knowledge and skills they need to embark on their own theological action research.
The question of ‘learning’ and growing in faith has been one with which we have been especially concerned in recent years. In particular, our large-scale four-year theological action research project into faith learning in British Methodism has proved a fruitful and enlightening piece of work which we are now beginning to write up in full. Based on this experience we are now beginning a new piece of theological action research, with the working title ‘The Edgy Learning Project.’
Our previous work has suggested that the most significant learning around faith and being a Christian often seems to take place away from the formal spaces of sermons, services, Bible study and courses. Rather, it’s the coffee after church, the walk with the dog, the response to a difficult event or incident, or just a chance conversation where this learning and growing takes place. In our research project looking at grassroots experiences of learning in British Methodism again and again we came across the conversational and informal nature of faith learning. Inspired by this, our new project explores faith learning in ‘edgy’ places – peripheries or margins of organised church – and seeks to understand how people in these contexts experience being and growing as disciples. These spaces are often neither organised by the institutional church, nor even visible to it. Current research on learning as disciples tends to prioritise the experiences of long-established members of mainstream congregations. Turning more intentionally to the ‘edges’ will provide an important corrective to existing accounts of how growth as disciples happens.
This theological action research project is being carried out by a team at the University of Roehampton, led by Clare Watkins (Principle Investigator) and James Butler (Post-doctoral Researcher). It is, as common with our work, a collaborative project, working closely with our funders, the Susanna Wesley Foundation, and St. Peter’s Saltley Trust, with Ian Jones, the Director of Saltley Trust, taking an active role in the fieldwork. The Church Mission Society (CMS) is an additional partner in the work, providing specialist missiological and pioneer lenses to our research reflection.
The groups with which we will work will be determined through theological action research’s participatory and collaborative principles. We recognise the sites we work with as co-researchers, and they will identify themselves and their own ‘edginess’ in response to our conversations with them, rather than us having a predetermined understanding of the edges, or ‘marginality. As a result, we are not looking to be representative of all forms of marginality but rather explore in detail particular experiences in specific contexts. We plan to work with six groups which might consider themselves ‘edgy’ in one or more ways. Together with members of each group, we will reflect theologically on these experiences and so identify learning for wider Christian practice.
We are conscious that labelling something edgy, peripheral or marginalised is itself problematic. We hope that this project will be able to highlight these problems and suggests ways forward. These labels can reveal something truthful about the lived experience of people and yet also be part of the problem of labelling and excluding. This is something we will carefully a navigate as we listen to our co-researchers and respondents. We are asking questions like: How is the Holy Spirit at work in ordinary people’s lives away from the formal church spaces? What can we learn by exploring how people’s faith develops and changes in the everyday spaces and the challenges of everyday life? If we intentionally turn away from the experience of more mainstream congregations to the more peripheral spaces, what might we find out about faith and learning?
There are a number of spaces where we believe there will be rich insights around these questions. One such space is with groups addressing issues of poverty and marginalisation. Approaches such as community organising and Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) have raised awareness of the need to shape spaces that welcome everyone’s gifts and skills, and develop more reciprocal ways of working which encourage flourishing rather than cycles of dependence. We will seek to work with Christian groups working in these contexts. Another, related, context is in the kinds of pioneering that CMS, and others, seek to support. These pioneer and fresh expressions communities often connect with people who would see churches as irrelevant, judgemental and distant from their own experience. Similarly, diaspora Churches have often experienced being marginalised by mainstream churches and denominations and are navigating questions of faith, mission, and culture. They too provide a context to explore these themes.
The project will run for two and a half years and be focused on the West Midlands area in keeping with the Saltley Trust’s remit. All six sites will be within that region. You can stay in touch with the research by signing up to the mailing list, following us on Twitter and keeping an eye out on this blog. If you are involved in something ‘edgy’ in the West Midlands and are interested in participating, do get in touch with us.
We are looking for someone to spend a few hours a month (up to 10 in the first instance) to manage our TARN website. If this is something you would be interested and able to do, please do contact Clare Watkins. The work would be paid on a self-employed basis through the University of Roehampton systems, at an hourly rate to be negotiated.
In collaboration with the Practical Theology Seminars at the University of Roehampton we will have two seminars per year focused on theological action research projects and reflecting on theological action research methodology. The first of these takes place on Thursday 17th November at 11.30-13.00 GMT. It will be a paper from Dr Marten Van de Meulen and Jonna Bakker, from Protestant Theological University in the Netherlands, entitled, “Finding a missional ecclesiology: marginality, discernment and time as elements for understanding church.” To join us please sign up on this Eventbrite link and you will be sent the link for Microsoft teams.
Our theological action research training is aimed at doctoral students and researchers. It is interactive and conversational and takes place on Zoom. Based around the 5 characteristics of theological action research it is designed to equip participants with the knowledge and skills they need to embark on their own theological action research.
If you haven’t yet signed up to receive our newsletter then you can find this month’s here. With news of our regular training in theological action research methods, we also highlight an exciting part-time job opportunity and invite you to submit your research and publications for inclusion on this website.
We are collecting details of people who would be interested in a paperback copy of Disclosing Church. Please use this form to register your interest in ordering a paperback version at a discounted rate (in the region of 20 pounds). You will be contacted by email at a later date with details of how to order and pay for the book.
Aimed at doctoral students and researchers, the training is designed to equip you with the knowledge and skills to embark on your own theological action research project. The training will be interactive and conversational and take place over Zoom. The sessions will run from 9am to 12 midday (UK time) both days. Timings are chosen to enable participation in Asia and Australia and New Zealand.
The training is run by Dr Helen Cameron, Research Associate of the Centre for Baptist Studies at Regent’s Park College, Oxford and Dr James Butler, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Roehampton and MA lecturer at the Church Mission Society, Oxford.
Price: £35 doctoral students, £50 waged researchers. An early bird discount of £5 will be available