Friday, August 16, 2013

theology as dinner party conversations

Today, I took a second step with the Master of Ministry Theology of Ministry Practice class.

The assumption of the topic is that each participant began ministry with a theology of ministry, a set of values and principles about ministry. Another assumption is that over time, they have collected experiences. Now, as they begin their Master of Ministry journey, is a time to re-theologise, to think again about their theology of ministry practice, to contemporise their reading, to clarify what their thesis topic really should be.

For this second class, each participant was invited to bring an experience, a moment of ministry that had left them thinking.

We began the class by sharing, around the room and online, using video-conferencing software. A rich set of stories, confronting, challenging, emerged.

It was time for the second step. Having shared, I invited them to consider themselves hosts of a dinner party. And to choose six guests whom they would like to have help them think through the question raised by the ministry experience. They could be alive or dead. But who would they like to have a conversation with.

I also noted that the average person speaks at about 100 words a minute. So one hour conversation with these six guests, would in fact be 6,000 words – the size of their essay. And like all conversations, these guests would probably argue ie engage in critical thinking.

Well, the lights went on and the energy went up in the room. Theology had been transformed. The participants had all sorts of interesting people they wanted to invite to their theological dinner party for conversation. People from the story they had shared, artists who would help them think differently, theologians in history, ministry practitioners they admired, saints who embody practices they value.

Which raised the inevitable question. How to get these voices into a theology essay? How to research and quote and cite?

Well, I said, that’s the third step. That’s for next gathering. How about I invite the librarian next time we meet and we ask them? We get them to guide us to the relevant databases, help us work out how to source information, whether books or journals or newspapers or people.

Lots of nods around the table. Lots of interest now in literature searching and proper use of bibliographies. Because research has taken another whole different shape.

It’s a dinner party conversation.

Posted by steve at 06:47 PM

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