The Susanna Wesley Foundation and Southlands Methodist Trust at the University of Roehampton http://susannawesleyfoundation.org/ have begun work with Methodist Church communities in England in order to carry out theological action research on the following topic: “Collaborative learning communities for collaborative ministry and mission”.
The British Methodist Church, in common with the majority of mainstream Christian communities in this context, is increasingly seeking to engage in fresh ways with questions of mission, ministry and cultures of pluralisms and secularism. Whilst there are some notable initiatives in the areas of lay training, congregational renewal and ‘fresh expressions’, a good deal of the structures of ministry and community remain largely unchanged. There is a particular challenge, to all the churches, regarding the organisational and sociological demands of a change in ecclesial culture – towards mission, collaborative ministry, participation and ‘discipleship’. The researchers’ instinct is that one fruitful way of exploring this is through a pedagogical lens, in keeping with the radical (root) understanding of ‘disciple’ as ‘pupil’ or learner’.
The proposed project will offer fresh perspective on these discourses of renewal, by returning us to a consideration of discipleship as primarily about learning. Using theological action research approaches, the project explores one major British church’s practices of learning, training, and teaching for ministry and mission, engaging in participative research with practitioners in various relevant strands of the British Methodist Church. In particular, the process will explore the place of assumed, explicit and implicit theologies in congregational practices. Through this questioning, possibilities for collaborative, community learning as a contribution to a culture of on-going teaching-and-learning will be practically trialled and reflected upon, as ways are discerned in which Christian communities might effectively refashion themselves as true communities of disciples – that is, communities of learners – for the sake of authentic ministry and mission for our context.