Anglia Ruskin Research Online (ARRO)
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Towards the development of ‘priest researchers’ in the Church of England

posted on 2023-08-30, 14:05 authored by Lynda Barley
The Church of England is living through a time of significant change in attitudes towards local church ministry, congregational participation and pastoral practices. As it seeks to respond with integrity to changes in contemporary society the Church’s dialogue with empirical social research is beginning to develop more fully. This thesis focuses on a pioneer national project to explore the effectiveness of pastoral ministry in contemporary church weddings. The social science research methods used in this project revealed insights into the ministry of contemporary church weddings with the intention of shaping responsive parochial wedding policies. This thesis considers the potential for further local enquiry by individual marrying clergy to understand the ordinary theology (proposed by Astley) of their communities using methods of ordinary research alongside a shared reflective practice. It highlights the socio-theological interface within reflective empirical theology by pastoral practitioners in the Church. A model of participatory action research incorporating online clergy forums and change agent groups is explored to stimulate parochial and institutional change among clergy in partnership with each other. The role of priest researchers is proposed and identified in other pastoral contexts to examine factors that motivate clergy to participate in the development of pastorally responsive national policies. A methodology of personal diaries, focus groups and one to one interviews is used to explore the responses of clergy to participating in reflective praxis. The findings point to key factors in developing pastoral practice and policies involving the place of ministerial development and attitudes towards collaborative working. A typology of pastoral ministry is developed towards identifying priest researchers in the Church. The research affirms the contribution of pastoral practitioners towards the development of pastorally responsive national policies but the nature of parochial deployment and clergy relationships with each other and the Church institutions frequently preclude much of this contribution.



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