Saturday, November 02, 2019

crossing cultures in theological education research

I am in Auckland this weekend for a very special celebration – the 50th anniversary of the acceptance of Congregational Union ministers and members into fellowship within the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. My involvement is a research contribution, reflecting on the impact this had on theological education, particularly given that the Congregational Union had a Pacific presence.

A few years ago, as part of learning about the history of the college I teach out, I set myself the task of reading the Student Union minutes, from 1965 to the present. It was a great way to understand theological education from a student perspective.

One of the striking features was the impact of the arrival of Pacific Island students to study.

  • In numbers: In the ten years from 1971-1980, 31 people representing 19% of the student cohort at the Hall were born in the Pacific.
  • In the classroom: Imagine the impact on those training for ministry, many coming from rural, monocultural Presbyterian parishes, to learn for ministry beside those from Western Samoa, Cook Islands, Niue and Tuvalu.
  • In resources and curriculum: during the 1970’s students organised input through a forum called Student hour and through the 1970s took the initiative to seek input on race relations, Pacific Island Customs and to raise funds for research into Polynesian subjects

When I heard about the 50th anniversary celebration, I shared a snippet of my research and was asked to provide a summary for a handout.

Screen Shot 2019-11-02 at 12.35.53 PM

This handout is a four page insert, with

  • Names of students in 1970s
  • Some reflection on impacts on Hall
  • List of research held in Hewitson
  • A picture of a page of the Minute book

It also names some potential future research possibilities

  • Life histories theology project: What could be learned by interviewing these ministers about what they think today about what wrote as they graduated? Could such interviews be a taonga made visible by video in language learning weeks?
  • Faith formation project: Many of those who graduated went to rural parishes in Southland and Otago. What did this geographic isolation mean for their families and their faith?

I really like that my research is considered of such benefit to the local church and that I get to share it with perhaps 300 people this weekend, as part of the celebrations at Newton PIC. (The technical word is impact, the way in which research actually reaches out and connects with local communities)

Posted by steve at 05:12 PM | Comments (0)

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