Friday, May 04, 2012
faith development: more than a guy thing part 2
Yesterday I raised some questions about the place of gender in faith development. I noted the work of Nichola Slee, Women’s Faith Development: Patterns and Processes. Her work emerges from interviews with 30 women, which resulted in some 1500 pages of transcribed interviews. She then read these narratives alongside a number of conversation partners – faith development theory and women’s spirituality.
She suggests these women develop through a three part process,
- of alienation
- of awakenings
- of relationality
She then makes four broad applications, to those in formal theological education, to those involved in any educational or pastoral care context in church life, to women’s networks and groupings.
First, to ground practice in women’s experience. She suggests making a priority of more inductive and experiential approaches to education. She also suggesting bringing to greater visibility women’s lives. (A simple check list I used in this regard, when I used to preach regularly, was check my sermon illustrations and quotes to make sure I had gender balance, as many women examples as men).
Second, create relational and conversational spaces, for “women’s spirituality was profoundly relational in nature, rooted in a strong sense of connection to others, to the wider world and to God as the source of relational power.” (Slee, 173) Slee suggests we look at our environments, ways to create circles not rows, and processes by which everyone speaks no less than once and no more than twice.
Third, foregrounding of imagination, given “the remarkable linguistic and metaphoric creativity of women as they seek to give expression to their struggles to achieve authentic selfhood, relationships with others, and connectedness to ultimate reality.” (Slee, 175). She notes historically how much of women’s theology was embedded in poetry, hymnody, craft forms and popular piety. So we need to find ways to weave this into our “reading” and our talking.
“Yet educators need to go beyond the use of such artistic resources to the active encouragement of learners to engage in artistry as a way of exploring and discerning truth.” (Slee, 177)
Practically, this can include Ignation practices, working with the texts of Biblical women, seeking to recreate their lives “between the lines of patriarchal texts.” (177)
Fourth, of accompanying into silence and paradox. Faith development involves times when we find ourselves in places which have no words. “They require the creation of spaces for waiting, for silence, for apparent nothingness.” (Slee, 178) Helpful resources here can include Meister Eckhart, Thomas Merton, Simone Weil.
Slee is aware that these suggestions are not new. But from her experience of (British) theological institutions, there is room for growth.
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