As co-directors of the LPI Project, Chris Scharen and I are committed to the goal of offering greater understanding and articulation of ministry as a practice learned over time. To that end the LPI study: 1) follows pastoral leaders over the long arc of learning from seminary through their lives in ministry; 2) focuses on how, in a variety of congregations and contexts, ministers learn and embody pastoral imagination, an integrative spiritual and practical wisdom inhabiting multiple tasks of ministry; and 3) responds to cultural complexity and fragmentation in theological education and religious life in the United States.
The following are links to four articles about the LPI Project written by co-directors, Eileen R. Campbell-Reed & Christian A. B. Scharen. Two of the articles require individual or institutional journal subscriptions for full access. The other two are open access. Enjoy!
“‘Holy Cow! This Stuff is Real!’ From Imagining Ministry to Pastoral Imagination” in Teaching Theology and Religion Volume 14, Issue 4, pages 323–342, October 2011.
Abstract: How do seminarians move from imagining ministry to embodying pastoral imagination? Stories gathered from seminarians in their final year of study show the complexity of shifting from classroom work, which foregrounds theory and intellectual imagination, to more embodied, relational, and emotionally intense engagements of ministry. Stories about learning ministry articulate a process we call the birth of pastoral imagination. New ministers test their use of knowledge acquired in classroom and books within the limits of actual ministry situations. They become overwhelmed by multiple variables in situations where they must make choices and act. These moments of action are fraught with risk and responsibility for the outcomes. Articulation and theological reflection are formative for students learning the practice of ministry. Implications for theological education include making greater “use of knowledge” in ministry practice and “use of practice” in classrooms. Points of crisis in the student stories raise additional questions about how some complications and interruptions to the “birth process” may present tragic consequences.
“The Unfolding of Pastoral Imagination: Prudence as Key to Learning Ministry” in Reflective Practice (Vol. 32), 2012.
Abstract: Over the last decade “pastoral imagination” has served as a provocative center for discussions about what makes for faithful and wise pastoral leadership. This essay is organized around two stories of ministry: a student in clinical pastoral training and a senior pastor of a large congregation. Their stories instantiate and characterize the use of pastoral imagination as prudence, unfolding over the long arc of learning the practice of ministry. The stories are case studies drawn from the Learning Pastoral Imagination (LPI) Project, a national study of learning ministry seeking to understand instances of pastoral imagination, articulate how it is learned, and say why it matters for the complex context of ministry in the twenty-first century.
“Ethnography on Holy Ground: How Qualitative Interviewing is Practical Theological Work” in International Journal of Practical Theology 2013: 17(2):1-28.
Abstract: How is ethnographic interviewing experienced as “holy ground”? Since the early 1990s, “empirical” or “descriptive” theology has been understood as an indispensable moment in practical theology. However, descriptive and empirical work in practical theology has remained remarkably dependent upon social science models. Even when practical theologians expanded ways of knowing in practical theological work, making space for relationality, dynamics of power, and embodied knowing, the theological character of lived research practice has remained largely unexamined. This paper proposes a more fully theological “descriptive moment” for practical theology by showing how ethnographic interviewing is practical theological work. Going beyond “description” or “empirical data gathering”, we argue practical theology needs theologically reimagined research practices. By presenting the case of our qualitative interviews with pastors and seminarians, we describe the theological character of an interview day, and we offer a rationale for making use of silence as a key aspect of theological ethnography. We conclude with reflections on the complex impact of the practice including: creating safe space for coming to voice; articulating woundedness, grief and joy; fostering good pastoral ministry; and experiencing God’s presence in creative and redemptive ways.
“Ministry as Spiritual Practice: How Pastors Learn to See and Respond to the ‘More’ of a Situation” in Journal of Religious Leadership 2013: 12(2), page 125.
Abstract: Christian ministry in a changing and challenging context requires “pastoral imagination,” a capacity to perceive the “more” in a situation and act wisely in response. Case studies from the Learning Pastoral Imagination Project show how ministers learn—through everyday pastoral practice and particular moments of ministry—to engage the “more” in situations by 1) seeing what is actually there, 2) recognizing the theological stakes, 3) knowing how to respond, and 4) responding in ways deeply connected to the community of faith and its participation in God. The dynamic of learning over time is key to understanding ministry as spiritual practice.
- We are assisted in our work by the incomparable Rev. Catrina Ciccone. She keeps the machines all humming.