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Title: Interpreting culture in a Scottish congregation : an ethnographic and theological approach
Author: Dowie, D. A.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1997
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In recent Practical Theology there has been an increasing interest in the application of hermeneutical theories. While the object domain of hermeneutics is primarily associated with literature and language, it is also possible to speak of the interpretation of situations. One type of social situation which practical theologians have treated as an interpretative context is that of congregations, and the impetus for such studies lies in the value of theology constructed around the experience of these communities. The focus of this thesis is congregational culture in the setting of a Scottish local church, and the research question concerns the ways in which congregants experience their culture. Since the interpretation of culture in communities is the specialisation of Social Anthropology, this research adopts a qualitative empirical approach consisting of participant observation and ethnographic interviews. In contrast to other examples of congregational studies, the significance of this research lies in taking cues from the particularity of the field setting itself rather than assuming preformulated structures. Central to congregational culture at Riverstane Church are the symbolic boundaries which delimit the relationship between insiders and outsiders, as well as the relationships between insiders themselves. These boundaries are associated with the church building, the social segmentation within the congregation, and the status economy of its micro -politics. Further, the symbolic boundaries are accompanied by mutually reinforcing cycles in the social processes of the congregation. These are: difference towards other social entities; deference to authority, tradition, and status; and dissonance resulting from the tension between the congregation's collective sense of self and the reality of congregational decline. Theologically, these congregational boundaries have a bearing upon congregational mission, and the biblical concept of philoxenia, or hospitality to strangers, is seen as a key to possible transformation. Finally, attention to the horizon of personal boundaries arising from the narcissistic orientation of congregational culture at Riverstane Church suggests an approach to pastoral care based upon the quality of 'interpathy' as a modified form of empathy.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available