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Talking about God in Practice [Kindle Edition]

Catherine Duce, James Sweeney and Helen Cameron
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Talking about God in Practice details the challenges and complexities of real theological conversations with practitioners, whilst providing an example of appropriate process, and a model of theological understanding by which to negotiate these complexities fruitfully. Drawing on, and adapting, action research methods, this process enables researchers with practitioners to access ‘implicit’ theologies, embedded within practices. The disclosure of the theology borne by practice enables a fresh and often exciting insight for all concerned, which leads to renewal of both practice and theology. The “Theological Action Research” process offers effective and mutually constructive ways of engaging practitioners and ‘academics’ in authentic research partnerships, contributing to the proper rootedness of theological scholarship, and to capacity building among practitioners for further, self-led research, reflection, and theologizing.Dr Helen Cameron is Director of the Oxford Centre for Ecclesiology and Practical Theology at Ripon College Cuddesdon.Deborah Bhatti is a theologian and writer living in London and San Francisco.Catherine Duce is the ARCS Field Worker, based at Heythrop College, University of London.The Revd Dr James Sweeney is Senior Lecturer in Pastoral Theology and Head of Department of Pastoral & Social Studies, Heythrop College, University of London.Dr Clare Watkins is a theologian and writer, based in Cambridge.

Product Description

About the Author

Dr Helen Cameron is Director of the Oxford Centre for Ecclesiology and Practical Theology at Ripon College Cuddesdon. Deborah Bhatti is a theologian and writer based in London. Catherine Duce is the ARCS Field Worker, based at Heythrop College, University of London. The Revd Dr James Sweeney is Senior Lecturer in Pastoral Theology and Head of Department of Pastoral & Social Studies, Heythrop College, University of London. Dr Clare Watkins is a theologian and writer, based in Cambridge.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 332 KB
  • Print Length: 198 pages
  • Publisher: SCM Press (25 July 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #282,398 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By K Avery
Relating theology to practice, uncovering the `deep connectedness between the Christian theological tradition and human experience', is never easy. The authors of `Talking About God in Practice' have worked towards finding more faithful ways of doing this which are intended, as they say themselves, to do "justice to the whole discipline of theology and to the complexity of practice".

The results of their work and experience are clearly set out in this book, explaining the methodology they have developed (Theological Action Research, `TAR') and also outlining a model for theological reflection (the `four voices of theology'). For those working in a diocese, parish or faith based agency, or teaching/studying practical theology, who wish to explore the relationship between theology and practice, this book will prove both interesting and helpful, being written in accessible language, with fresh ideas and practical advice on how to set about this type of research/ reflection.

Having embarked recently on a TAR project ourselves, we, on the Diocesan Pastoral Team of the Catholic Diocese of Arundel & Brighton (Learning Disabilities Adviser and Pastoral Support Coordinator), are finding `Talking About God in Practice' has proved a good taster for getting us involved, an invaluable companion through the process, and a point of reference for the future.

K. Avery
1st August 2011
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5.0 out of 5 stars Reason 18 July 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It was extremely helpful in helping my understanding of quite a difficult subject to study and in writing an assignment
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great! what more can I 20 Dec. 2014
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Ordered came in time. Great! what more can I say
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars Great manual on how theology can inform action plans 16 Jan. 2015
By Darren Cronshaw - Published on
In my church tribe, the Baptist Union of Victoria, we are planning research into congregational transformation, multicultural ministry and missional leadership development. These are identified pressing needs. There is literature we can draw on and case studies we can investigate. Qualitative research methods promise to help us go deep in our analysis. But we are eager to work with (rather than just for) our churches and stakeholders, learn from other denominations and organisations, include postgraduate research students and emerging scholars, and ensure our research leads to real and lasting change rather than just a report and maybe a publication. Talking about God in Practice and its Theological Action Research (TAR) offers a process and model that are ready to adapt for the practitioners and budding researchers among us.
Written collaboratively by the ecumenical and interdisciplinary Action Research Church and Society (ARCS) project team, they want to show the relevance of Christian tradition to experience and help people talk about God in practice, in a culture which has moved God-talk to the margins. The two major frameworks they draw on are practical theology and its interest in bridging experience and tradition with theological reflection and interdisciplinary studies; and action research that addresses real-life problems with researchers working collaboratively with participants to develop new action plans.
The fresh methodology of TAR is a collaborative and conversational approach for helping churches and agencies sharpen and fulfill their mission. In definition:

“Theological Action Research is a partnership between a insider and an outsider team to undertake research and conversations answering theological questions about faithful practice in order to renew both theology and practice in the service of God’s mission.” (63)

It is a partnership between an “insider” team who are reflecting on their own context and experience, and an “outsider” team. So rather than an individual producing theological ideas, TAR invites practitioners and academics to be curious and identify and ask questions, and to work with qualitative researchers to sharpen the research questions(s) and methodology. The TAR methodology uses an action-reflection cycle, starting with experience, reflecting on it with teams of practitioners and reflectors, identifying learnings, and leading to renewed action and theology. Part of its beauty is that it presupposes a change outcome.
Another value is that theological reflection does not just happen as a last step after analysis as “the icing on the cake already baked in the oven of social analysis” (51), but throughout the process. A fresh model for framing this is the understanding of “theology in four voices” which researchers and participants use to label different theological perspectives:

• Normative theology (Scripture and tradition)
• Formal theology (of academic theologians)
• Espoused theology (embedded in a group’s articulated beliefs)
• Operant theology (embedded in a group’s actual practices)

TAR helps participants understand and converse with these different theologies in order to transform practice; it is a “practical theology pedagogy” designed to renew the operant level of what groups do.
The ARCS team has developed a process including a set-up questionnaire for the insider team to articulate their theology and what influences them and what they want to find out. This would be a helpful resource for any congregation seeking help with revitalisation, or for consultants to use with other agencies. There are suggestions for a warm-up meeting, steps for designing the research and action plan, data collection and analysis, and writing feedback documents for teams to discuss. Feedback documents are a way that TAR helps teams clarify or refine findings and invite buy-in on change.
Three chapters discuss case studies of TAR applied in parish, denomination, and agency settings. It is inspiring to see how well-designed research and simply asking curious questions can help a group with self-awareness and fresh impetus for growth.
This practical field guide to a fresh and developing process and model for theological research will be useful for practitioners, consultants, and organisations wanting to foster mutual learning and looking for research-based recommendations for planning and action. In a theological education context, it would be a valuable resource for research students and teachers of theological reflection and research methods, students learning from practitioners in a placement or case-study course, or even organisers of academic conferences planning to use collaborative groups for learning.

This review was originally published in Journal of Adult Theological Education 11:2 (November 2014), 167-168.
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