Exploring Practices in Theological Research




Exploring Practices in Theological Research


"Practice" is a buzzword in practical theological work, yet it is often unclear what scholars actually mean when using this concept. During our meeting we would, therefore, like to explore and discuss various traditions of and approaches to practice theory, and how such theories are used in practical theological research and work. Closely related to practice theory is the term "practices". Empirical studies of various kinds play an increasingly important role in many of the theological disciplines, and in practical theology in particular. This turn is partly intertwined with the more comprehensive “practice turn,” which has developed in scientific theory and disciplines within the last five to six decades.

The 2018 conference of the Nordic Network for Theology and Practice seeks to continue the conversation about practice and practices that were initiated during the previous conference in Aarhus in 2016. The “empirical turn” has provided a richer understanding of the practical, social and material side of religious life as a topic for theological reflection. It has also suggested that theological reflection and knowledge is not separate from actual practices, but embedded in them. At the same time, profound questions for practical theology, and other theological research disciplines have appeared. We, thus, seek to deepen the understanding of practices and practice theory in practical theological research by inviting speakers and papers that explore and discuss various approaches to practice theory and religious practice.

In this conference, we discuss and reflect on these questions through key note lectures, paper presentations, roundtables/panels and informal conversations. We invite scholars from practical theology, and other disciplines interested in these questions, to join us. The conference targets a Nordic audience in particular but welcomes participants from other countries as well.

We offer an associate gathering for colleagues who primarily work with pastoral education and the training of other ecclesial professionals in the Nordic countries. See https://www.mf.no/om-mf/arrangementer/educating-ministry-professionals-n... for more information

10.12.2018 - 12:00 til 12.12.2018 - 16:00

Nordic Conference,
December 10-12, 2018

MF Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society, Oslo

Venue: MF, Gydas vei 4, 0302 OSLO

Registration fee:
Professionals: 1500,- NOK includes participation in all sessions, lunch on Dec. 10-12, dinner on the 10-11.
PhD students: 1200,-  NOK
Registration after October 15: 1800,-  NOK (everyone)

Conference language: English

Registration form

Contact email for the conference: practices@mf.no

Hotel and Accommodation

Hotel and Accommodation

We have reserved rooms at Thon Hotell Gyldenløve.
- Singleroom 1295 NOK pr night
- Doubleroom 1495 NOK pr night

To order send an e-mail to gyldenlove.booking@olavthon.no before the 9th of November 2018

The mail should include
- Your name
- How many nights you are staying
- The discount code 101218DETT

Cheaper options:
- Katarinahjemmet
- Ellingsens pensjonat
Use the name of the conference secretary, Linn Sæbø Rystad, to get access to the reserved rooms.

Key Note abstracts

Key Note abstracts

Davide Nicolini - Some recent developments in practice-based studies (and what they may mean for theology as practice).

In my talk I will address some recent theoretical and methodological developments in practice–based studies that expand the reach of practice theoretical approaches and may be of value for the theology-as -practice research community. I will discuss first the idea that practices form textures and nexuses and argue that much is to be gained if we focus on this level of analysis rather than on individual practices only. For example, it is very difficult to comprehend religion as a single practice and much is to be gain if we think of religions in terms of mutable nexuses and configurations of practices. Second, and strictly related, I will discuss the issue of how practices form such nexuses, how they are knotted together, how they influence each other and what consequences may derive from this.  I will suggest that addressing this question is critical in order to shed light for example on how (religious) practices become hybridised and a change. Finally, I will examine the relationship between practices and affect. I will argue that understanding this relationship is critical as there is a risk that practice-theoretical approaches produce an over intellectualised view of the social world (and of religion) that does not resonate with our empirical observation and personal experiences.

Elaine Graham - "Using 'the intelligence of practice': theory, method and research in practical theology."

Over the past generation, PT has undergone a sea-change in its self-understanding, putting emphasis on the nature of ‘practice’ as situated at the very heart of the discipline’s focus, method and subject-matter.  In this lecture, I will introduce some of the issues at stake and trace how ‘practice’ as research is gaining currency and acceptance across a range of disciplines but also how this is contributing to a reconceptualisation of the discipline. Not only is theology practical, but practice is theological. In the course of my discussion, I will introduce and examine four key theses:

i.   Practices build worlds – material and symbolic
ii.  Religion is more than belief
iii. Theology is practical … and practice is theological
iv. Researching practice entails particular skills, methods and approaches

I will conclude that this turn to practice constitues nothing less than a theological vision: that God is discerned and encountered within such practices of making, acting and imagining. In that respect, there is an essential unity between action and reflection, since both are necessary for us to act effectively and truthfully in the world.

Kirstine Helboe Johansen - Theologising in the Wild – local church practices as theological expressions

Being church is practicing church and during every week local churches practice church in their local, national and denominational contexts. Church practices are also theological expressions – tentative, polyphonic and experimenting as lived religion is. Thus, researching local church practices is researching contemporary, lived theology. Some practices have long been key practices in church life: worship, prayers, funeral, baptism; and in these practices local churches lean on tradition in their constant renewal and adaptation of these practices to their present context. But society, culture and congregations change and local churches must also constantly develop practices fit for contemporary times and challenges. In a Danish context, baby hymn singing, existential antenatal education, Valentine’s Day services and Halloween celebrations are among the newcomers. Both established and more experimental church practices enable insights into practiced theology, but unsurprisingly, practices at the borders of church life, the debated and challenging practices are to a much higher degree experimental, fuzzy and sometimes self-contradictory in their theological expression – and to me, therefore, all the more interesting. For that reason, Halloween will play a central role in my presentation.

Paper abstracts

Paper abstracts

Here you find paper abstracts for papers being presented at the conference.

The paper abstracts are tentatively organized according to the main theme of the papers



Church and Society

Church and Society

1) Ryzard Bobrowicz - A shift in theoretical foundations can improve the practice of Multi-Faith Spaces 
The Multi-Faith Spaces (MFS) were subject to growing concerns in recent years. This was also the case in Scandinavia where, for instance, a conflict around the "retræterum" at KU's Søndre Campus led to debates in the Danish Parliament. Closer analysis of this and similar incidents shows that tensions seemingly come from: (1) Theoretical foundations of an approach to public religion that fails to accommodate a changing religious landscape in Europe, and (2) a mismatch between needs and expectations of potential MFS users and the way in which such spaces function in practice. This paper aims to address both of these problems, by, first, describing two prevailing theoretical options - "secularism" and "multi-faith paradigm" - along with their practical applications and fallacies; second, it will present the preliminary results of a survey among the potential users of MFS in the Malmö area. Finally, it will suggest the possible directions toward improving the existing and future MFS, in order to lessen the tensions and provide more suitable solutions for believers and non-believers alike. 

2) Viktor Aldrin - The conflict over religious practice in Swedish schools: the Church of Sweden and its struggle to redefine its Lutheran confession in a secular state 
A vital aspect of the Church of Sweden is its Lutheran confession and its emphasis on the Two regiments doctrine - an equal interest of working together in the Nation state of Sweden. According to Casanova (2014), the Nordic countries have experienced a secularism where religion has merged with the state and become a department. At the end of the 20th century, state and church separated, and the Church of Sweden became a "free" denomination. in the public schools, this separation has led to a conflict between the church and state. Thus, the distribution of rights according to the Lutheran doctrine is no longer valid. The state discards the Church of Sweden's "spiritual regiment" for the society, considering its religious practices as illegal within the school system. Ecclesiastical debates have begun on a new Lutheran identity formation within the church - that of a church of a minority in a postsecular context. The aim of this paper is to examine this identity formation and, the conflict over religious practices in the schools. New results from the research project "End of term ceremonies held in churches and the debate on the role of religion in Swedish schools", will be presented.

3) Gunnfrid Ljones Øierud - School worship services - old tradition, new conditions, new practice?
Worship services for Norwegian schools/pupils in local churches are common before Christmas or Easter. It is argued that this tradition should be upheld because worship attendance gives a learning opportunity valuable for all students regardless of their religious affiliation. But as church and public school have become clearly independent institutions with different objectives and regulations — how is it possible to meet in a joint practice of worship? Currently there is a multitude of ways of enacting these acts of worship. This paper will present a brief analysis of the different regulations relevant for school worship services from church (liturgical thinking and worship books) and school (the Education Act, curriculum, guidelines). I will discuss the degree to which and the ways in which the regulations are compatible, focusing mainly on the question of participation, and reflect on differences in current practice and new theological/liturgical challenges.

4) Jakob Egeris Thorsen - Diaconal Work and Volunteering in the Age of Authenticity
This paper examines the motivations of employees and volunteers in three faith-based diaconal institutions working with migrants and socially disadvantaged groups in Denmark. Diaconal organizations and institutions were established in response to rapid social transformations and turmoil in the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century in what Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has termed "the age of mobilization". With the full implementations of the welfare state in the 1970s, many deemed diaconal work obsolete. However, due to reforms, reductions of social services in the 1980s and a rise in social volunteering from the late 1990s and onwards, diaconal organizations, and institutions have experienced new relevance and growth. This paper examines interviews with diaconal employees and volunteers through the analytical lens of Taylor, arguing that the motivation to engage in diaconal work is a combination of active citizenship and the expressive individualism that characterizes our "age of authenticity". When engaging in church or faith-based diaconal work, religious motivations only play a minor role (if any) among the interviewees, while a secular humanistic outlook and progressive political motivations dominate. By appealing to active citizenship and progressive values, diaconal organizations have been able to remain relevant social actors, but might risk jeopardizing their ecclesial and missionary identity.




1) Birte Bernhardt - The experience of middle-aged single people in protestant churches in Austria and Germany. 
In my paper, I present the experience of middle-aged single people in protestant churches in Austria and Germany. My PhD-research is based both on relevant scientific literature and on 21 qualitative interviews conducted in 2016.  Individuals belonging to the group mentioned are very often looking for a relevant community and belonging in church contexts. On the one hand, they are facing special barriers when getting in touch with church communities, even if they already have social relations to Christians or local congregations: The church's focus on families with children ( eps. visible in time frames and activities offered), the traditional Christmas celebration culture in Western Europe and a general orientation of occasional liturgies (German: Kasualien; Norwegian: kasualier) on a prototypical family life cycle, complicate feelings of belonging or even obstruct desired contacts. On the other hand, singles between 30 and 60 are highly indispensable resources for church life: In many cases, they are more flexible than parents and couples and some even have a better financial position to potentially support congregational life. Furthermore, to theologically reflect the single life might contribute to a more differentiated view on an individual person's relation to God - with all social implications this can have. 

2) Laura Bjørg Serup Petersen - A materiality lens on intercultural ecclesiology
Materiality, simplified defined as non-human objects, is conceptualized inseparable from practice and sociality. So far practice theorists agree - but the way in which materiality plays part is disputed (e.g. Nicolini 2012, 168-171). Therefore, as practical theology engages with practice theories, both an analytical focus on and discussion of the role of materiality is inherent. This paper tentatively explores the implementation of an analytical focus on materiality of practices in empirical research from a local Danish church. The church is from a field study to be conducted in the autumn 2018 as part of my PhD project on intercultural encounters within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark. Therefore, the specific interest of this paper is the role of materiality in social settings of encounters of practices and practitioners from different contexts. How do material issues facilitate or hinder partaking in practices, and how does materiality memorize former parctice or contribute to new emerging practices? And, in this small case study, where does a material analysis perspective direct a reflection on the materiality of encounter-practices as theological? 

3) Björn Asserhed - Discipleship in the premature church - church planing practices and adult learning
While the Swedish free church movement is in decline, church planting has become a common activity in established churches and denominations. When a new church is started it is small and doesn't necessarily fulfil all standards of what is normally conceived as church. What is learning and how are disciples formed in this ecclesial premature milieu? In an adult learning/practical theology study, that is part of the 'Church in society' project at THS in Stockholm, practice theory will be used to investigate sociocultural, sociomaterial and situated learning in church plants on a micro (individual learner), meso (group/community) and macro (inter-community) level. 
The study uses an ethnographic method. Field studies let the researcher engage in the church plant over time, observing and identifying the main practices and their ecology as well as the interaction with the social and material contexts. Practitioner involvement supports the tying together of theory and practice. Using the definition by Bass and Dykstra, could church planting practice "... in response to and in the light of God's active presence for the life of the world" bring views on learning, ecclesiology and mission needed today?

4) Knut Tveitereid - 
In the debate on new types of congregations in The church of Norway, the Danish phenomenon of valgmenigheder (Eng.: congregations of choice») and the English phenomenon of Fresh expression of Church are occasionally talked about as one and the same. Through an analysis of the existing empirical research on new types of congregations in the two countries, this article identifies a series of differences between them. The Norwegian debate has up to this point predominantly followed the path of the Danish valgmenigheter. Based on these findings, however, the article asks – rather rhetorically, I must admit – whether there is more to learn for The church of Norway about new types of churches in the steps of the Brits.   

5) Dorte Gørtz Kappelgaard - Action Research in Churches as Wonder-Driven 

As an introduction, I will share some of my own preliminary contribution to the exploration of the field of theology and action research. This consists in a sketching out a variety of ways in which theology explicitly plays a role in the work of six external consultants facilitating development processes in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark, as described by themselves.
On this basis, I will share some choices within and learnings from action research processes that I am currently running in two churches, focusing on the analytical topics of 1) exploring church identity, 2) letting go of ambitions and 3) halting on the doorstep of wonder. These are some of the central topics in my own process of being a consultant and researcher as well as the process of the churches.



1) Chigemezi-Nnadozie Wogu - Denominational Heritage as Practice: Between Preservation and Innovation
Denominational heritage is taken as a serious theme among Seventh-day Adventists in Nigeria. As a practice, denominational heritage is approached differently by members of this denomination. Data generated from 7 weeks of fieldwork research reveals that while the ecclesial practice of some Adventists is geared towards the preservation of their denominational heritage, others are pushing for its innovation. The majority who lean towards preservation of heritage in their practice do so as a response to the wide influence of Pentecostalism. Interestingly, those who lean towards innovation in their practice do so in a bid to reach Pentecostals and remain relevant in the religious atmosphere of Nigeria. Hence, this paper demonstrates that denominational heritage as practice is religious capital that is affected by social and religious change. Moreover, the tension in interpreting denominational heritage shows the intersection between Seventh-day Adventist missionary tradition and local Nigerian cultural innovation.

2) Simon Hallonsten
Ecumenism has since the beginning taken shape around shared practices. From the World Mission Conference in 1910 to the WCC's Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace in 2014, joint action has been central for the ecumenical movement. Taking its starting point in an autobiographical approach based on the author's experiences of joint Roman Catholic-Lutheran worship, this paper advances an argument for the centrality of practices for the Ecumenical movement. Employing a practical theology approach to ecumenism means recognizing that practice does not follow passively from theory, but that practice equally instigates and shapes theory. The way in which we act together forms our thinking about unity. However, central Christian practices, such as the liturgy, and especially the Eucharist, continue to realize separation instead of unity. To address the continued performance of division, ecumenism needs to provide viable resources for joint worship. The paper introduced shared eucharistic fasting as one such resource. In doing so, the division around the table itself turned into an ecumenical practice of joint worship, a practice intended to further the struggle for Christian unity by participating in the hurt of division

3) Joel Appelfeldt - Practical theology and a model for receptive ecumenism
My research on the baptismal practices of local congregations in the Uniting Church in Sweden (Equmeniakyrkan), will use the ecclesiology concept of catholicity as an analytical tool to investigate the baptismal theology of local congregations, as found in documents of faith, preaching, teaching and liturgy. Part of the aim of the study is to develop an analytical tool that can be used independently by local congregations, to analyze their baptismal practices in light of a catholic ecumenical description of baptism, a practical tool for ecumenical reflection and reception. This aim has much in common with the concept of Receptive Ecumenism developed in a series of research projects at the Centre for Catholic Studies within the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University, led by professor Paul D. Murray. As Murray describes, Receptive Ecumenism seeks to find a way for communities of faith to keep the integrity of their tradition while creatively appropriating the resources of the Catholic Church. My paper will explore how Receptive Ecumenism can contribute to my research within practical theology, and how my research can contribute to the development of Receptive Ecumenism






1) Stephen Sirris - Governance and guiding? Negotiating pastoral leader identities in work appraisal interviews
Considering leadership a relational and distributed processual practice, this paper explores interactions as situated real-life phenomena recorded, transcribed and analyzed at a micro-level (Fairhurst, 2008). Being attentive to context and the evolving process, I explore how leader identities of pastors are talked into being as enacted leadership (Clifton, 2012, 2014). The study is based on twofold set of empirical materials; interviews with clergy and observations of a dean's work appraisal interviews with three pastors in the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Norway. I utilize conversation analysis and link talk where leader and follower negotiate authority with the macro discursive concepts professionalism and managerialism, each with distinctive concepts and ideas of leadership (Choi & Schurr, 2014; Schurr & Chan, 2011). The research question guiding the study is How is authority in pastoral leadership constructed and negotiated in pastoral work appraisal interviews?  I want to analyze the material in a twofold way: First, identifying what expectations and understanding of the appraisal interview that exist, using interviews. Second, and mainly, using three appraisal interviews as illustrative examples of how interactions on a micro level occur in situ. 

2) Camilla Sløk - The theology of leadership practice
The practice of leadership in public sector contradicts the theory of leadership in general. Investigating 10 years of teaching more than 200 leaders in public sector, I show how the anthropology of leadership does not comply with the actual experience nor practice of what leaders in public sector actually do in leadership. The paper show through cases from the 200 leaders how their practices becomes closer to a Lutheran theology, without being exactly Lutheran. Luther found human beings to be intrinsically "incurvatus in se", selfish and evil ("malum") by nature (Luther: "De Servo Arbitrio" (1525)). This experience does not comply with contemporary leadership theory. However, the experienced leaders come to a different understanding of human nature through their practice than the anthropology of transformational leadership, as famously framed by Bernard Bass does. Leaders find through their experience that human beings can be altruistic and selfish. hard-working and lazy. Good and mean to one another. The point from a theological point of view is how these experiences change the practices of leaders into an anthropology much closer to a Lutheran understanding than a plain positive understanding of human beings. 




1) Elin Lockneus - Preconditions for liturgical practices in Sweden
Liturgical practices and their meaning is my main interest in my PhD.  I am analysing the meaning of the liturgy and the practices in the eyes of the practitioners as well as within academical theology. In this paper I will explore the different preconditions for liturgical practices. My focus will be on two different denominations, The Uniting Church of Sweden (Equmeniakyrkan) and the Church of Sweden ( Svenska kyrkan). The main question is "what are the preconditions for liturgy and liturgical practices in the Uniting Church of Sweden and The Church of Sweden and in what way do they differ?" An analysis of the Swedish law, the internal regulations of the denomination and the service book will be the main focus in this chapter. 

2) Sini Hulmi - Created Reality as Mediator of God's Presence in Liturgy - Body, Space, Actions, and Artifacts as Incarnated Symbols of Transcendence and Divine Mystery
The aim is to understand and analyze, what significance the visible, touchable, heard, or with other bodily senses observable artifacts, actions, space, sounds, gestures, and movement have for participants of worship when they approach the mysteries of faith. The intention is to find out, how these embodied expressions serve as mediators of sacredness in liturgy. Visible signs of God's grace and presence are encountered in the sacraments, but also in other events in the worship. The created reality and the transcendence side of God are inseparable. Incarnated holiness is an essential part of Christian worship. The presentation is based on mainly empirical research conducted in three Nordic Countries. The main research material are writings from people who have attended a worship. The people are asked to write, what they experienced with their senses during the worship and what significance it had for them. They get guiding questions, which they can answer freely and in their own way. The writings are analyzed and interpreted using qualitative research methods. It is complemented by analyzing with qualitative content analysis the worship books and their instructions, and by participant observation in the services. 

3) Joel Halldorf - Interpretative Categories for Free Church Liturgies
The free churches appeared in the Scandinavian in the 19th century. They varied in theology and ecclesiology, but tended to use "mötet" - "the meeting" - as a liturgical form. Strong congregationalism and lack of central control did however create liturgical variations within the different free churches (i.e. Baptist, Mission Covenant, Pentecostal movement). This historical background combined with the liturgical development during the 20th century has generated a great variation within these denominations today. The lines do not run between denominations, but within them. But is it possible to discern some general patterns, in order to create a hermeneutical framework which can facilitate further studies and discussions? In this paper, I suggest that it is. Based on historical investigations, consideration of later developments and studies of how these is realized in congregational life today I present three broad analytical categories for worship in the free church-tradition. These are the traditional meeting, sometimes in a slightly updated form, liturgies shaped by neopentacostal influences, and liturgies shaped by broad-church trends (the ecumenical movement). 

The paper relates to the following themes:
- Historical studies of religious practices 
- Case-studies of concrete practices of religious life, both in its organized forms as well as its everyday forms of "lived-religion". 

4) Andreas Melson Gregersen - How to create a sleeping priest? The bean bag chair: a new liturgical device 
This paper examines the working relationship between priests, technologies (and god(s)) as it unfolds in new protestant practices in Denmark. In recent years a host of alternative sermons have been presented in the Night churches of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark (Folkekirken). Common for the alternative sermons are a tendency to introduce and experiment with different technologies and ‘things’ more broadly. Ranging from silent-meditation to electronica-sermons, it is fair to say that the Night churches are experimenting with different new liturgical forms; with some going as far as playfully referring to this as taking place in a ‘liturgical laboratory’. Drawing primarily on Latour’s philosophy of technology this paper enters the liturgical laboratory and unfolds the mediational effect of the bean bag chair.   




1) Torsten Cress - Reproduction and Change. Exploring Normativity in Religious Practices
Normativity can be viewed as a crucial feature of social practices. While this may be obvious for certain aspects - e.g. for the rules that orient people‘s behaviour -, normativity encompasses the whole organization of a practice: the range of actions that are performed, the manner of their performance, expressive behaviour, emotions, teleology, temporality, and meaning. Furthermore, it affects materiality and space. While ideas about how things should be done, how one should feel, or how things should be understood, may contribute significantly to a practice‘s reproduction and stability, it is important not to mistake normativity with determination. Rather, I argue, the concept of normativity can be used as a starting point to explore openness, idiosyncracy, and change. In focussing on how participants deal with expectations that are incorporated in a practice‘s organization - anticipating and adhering to them, exploring options and testing limits, searching and finding their own ways of doing things -, it comes into view how normativity is done, expressed, questioned, and negotiated within the course of practical action. Drawing on examples of my research on Catholic belief practices and developing notions of Theodore Schatzki, I want to discuss in this paper how the concept of normativity can help to stimulate research on both the organization and performance of religious practices.

Pastoral Care/Counseling

Pastoral Care/Counseling

1) Tormod Kleiven, Marianne Rodriguez Nygaard and Anne Austad - Invitation to healing dynamics of power in open healing practices
Previous research has shown that poor health and life conditions involving suffering motivate people to seek religious healing practices. This paper is part of the "Healing Experiences and the Lived Body" research project. The project analyses characteristics of healing experiences and practices related to resources from Christian faith and practices. This paper presents research on healing practices from three different Christian fellowships. It will explore the practice of intercession for healing sickness and suffering and the understanding and justification of these practices by the leaders. The research methods are observations of these practices and interviews with the leaders. Practice theory and theories about power are used abductively to analyze and discuss the material. Preliminary findings prompt a discussion about the regulatory frameworks of these healing practices. In addition, they call for a discussion of roles and power dynamics in the interplay among the person seeking intercession, the intercessors, and others who are responsible for the service. Our presentations will describe and discuss the findings more comprehensively. 

2) Suvi-Maria Saarelainen - Service TV Discussions as a Practice of Existential Care for the Oldest Old
The number of people reaching the oldest of old age (80+) is constantly increasing and the amount of older people staying at home has increased strongly in Finland. Yet, it is known that the quality of life of elderly people decreases when the number of social relations is reduced and significant others are lost. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes that social relations and participation prevent loneliness among elderly people. The WHO has suggested utilizing technology to counter loneliness in elderly people. From these premises, this presentation analyses Service TV discussion groups as a practice of existential care. The data is gathered by organizing existential discussion groups and individual interviews among the oldest old by utilizing Service TV technology (similar to Skype). The thematic analysis of the data shows that group discussions provided a new practice of sharing and caring among the participants. My paper introduces the key existential themes emerged in the discussions. As conclusion, technological means cannot displace a human encounter, however; technology can provide a complimentary route to provide pastoral care and counseling. STV and care technology can contribute to existential care by providing new platforms for practices of care. 

3) Hans Stifoss-Hansen and Peter Kevern - Dementia: A theological disease?
Although one writer has called dementia "the theological disease", there has been remarkably little reflection on its significance from the perspective of religion and spirituality. This paper is the second in a collaboration between VID Specialized University and Staffordshire University (UK) which aims to develop theological insights based on the experience of People with Dementia (PWD) and their carers. In 2017-18, the authors undertook a study of the contents of an online forum for carers of people with dementia on "thoughts which lend a spiritual perspective to going through dementia" (Kevern and Stifoss-Hansen, 2018, submitted). Although the majority of participants could be classified as 'post christian' or 'spiritual - not religious' (Woodhead and Heelas, 2007), analysis of forum content indicated six distinct meaning-making strategies were deployed. The present paper (due for submission in 2019) represents an appraisal of the material on a different level, focusing of the rhetorical and literary structure of individual contributions. Narrative features are analysed in the light of models presented by A. Frank (The Wounded Storyteller, 1997). They demonstrate that these 'not-religious' participants continue to engage in a distinctive process of narrative theological reflection in order to make meaning from their experience and practice. 

4) Christine Tind Johannessen-Henry - Mentalizing as a Tool in Funeral Pastoral Care Conversations
In conversations with relatives of deceased, which take place before a funeral ceremony, ministers communicate and operate in diverse and, at times, highly secular environments. However, in secularized environments, e.g., found in the Danish society, Christianity isn’t necessarily all absent. Rather, fragments and individualized forms of faith practices and religious tradition often show in silent and occasional unorthodox ways. Experiences of death and loss involve multiple ideas, feelings, fantasies, dreams, cosmologies, social and material relations – at times interweaved with small glimpses of Christian beliefs and hope. Such ‘silent’ conditions of faith may challenge ministers’ pastoral care skills in the deeper ecclesiological meaning-making of funeral conversations. It raises the question how the different ’repertoires’ of a confessional and an everyday secular view may relate to each other in funeral conversations. On the basis of ethnographical fieldwork, this paper presentation will explore, how ‘presence’ unfolds in funeral pastoral care. In the conversations sometimes emerges an open-minded, shared and silent ‘now’, that entangles secular and religious metaphors – thus maintaining their difference. The paper argues that these ‘tuned’ situations, occurring within the pastoral care elements of funeral conversations, in advance operates with partly psychological movements of mentalizing and partly theological reflections, where the Word of God ‘leaks into’ the psychological processes and basic elements in the path of conversation – preparing for the coming funeral ceremony and future.

5) Auli Vähäkangas - Relationality in Pastoral Practice
The focus of counseling is on the relationship existing between persons. Through the relational turn, the encounter between persons and also between humans and God himself has become even more important in pastoral practice and in practical theological research (see for example Cooper-White 2004; Lartey 2006, 63-66). Relational theory stresses that a person’s identity is constructed through relationships and that we are all embedded in a web of social relationships and that all our decisions are affected by responsibilities towards those who are significant to us (Nedelsky 2011, 19-20; Harding 2014).  Relational theology begins with a personal relationship to God or a higher power and to other people. Both of these relations are important for one’s wellbeing (McClure 2010). Within relations, people seek to be accepted; stories are shared in order to be heard and encountered. Yet, the hearers of the stories can be other people or transcendent (Ganzevoort 1998; Ganzevoort 2010). In this paper, I will explore further, how relationality in pastoral practice influences practical theology as a discipline in Finland and how research on experience and embodiment is part of contemporary Practical Theology. 



1) Frida Mannerfelt
This paper will relate to my PhD-project "Preaching in the age of digitalization" and focus specifically on the relationship between digitalization and theology. While theology poses critical questions to digitalization and especially digitally mediated religious practices, often dismissing them as "not real" or "a distraction", these practices also question theological statements, such as how we perceive place, community and body (the body of Christ). The paper will explore some of these questions on a theoretical level, but also provide some empirical examples from a pilot study of digitally mediated preaching. 

2) Linn Sæbø Rystad - "I wish we could fast forward" - negotiating the practice of preaching
Many homileticians talk of the practice of preaching. However, few account for what they mean by practice or how this practice can be explained and understood. In this paper, I will, through synthesizing definitions of preaching, try to establish a shared (theoretical) understanding of what the practice of preaching is. Then, through using Theodore Schatzki's understanding of practice as an analytical tool, I explore how we can understand what listeners do and say in this practice. In the field of Homiletics there has been a turn towards listener-oriented research, however, this has mainly been a turn towards adult listeners. The listeners in the material used in this paper are children, thus including the perspective of another group of listeners into the listener-oriented vein of homiletics. Interviews with children show that they, for the most part, do not take part in the shared understanding of preaching, struggle with genuinely following the rules of the practice, and have different ends than the preachers for the practice of preaching, leading them to seldom fully participate in the practice of preaching. I claim that the difficulties they have with becoming a part of the practice can be transcended by affectivity (how the preaching matters) and how materiality, words, and space are used in the preaching events. 

Profession Studies

Profession Studies

1) Tiia Liuski - Finnish Military Chaplains’ Profession at a Turning Point: Developing Professionalism in Multi-Professional, Multi-Cultural and International Environment
In this paper proposal I will introduce my second article (2/4) from my dissertation concerning Finnish military chaplains’ worldviews and how it effects their work and their future orientation.
My main research questions on this survey (n = 20) based study are:

- What is the Finnish Evangelical-Lutheran military chaplains’ profession like in a metamodern era?
- What is their vocation like and what it’s relation to their work is like?
- Do they have any conflicts working in the military as a chaplain?
- How do they see their occupation’s development in the future?

The semi-structured electronic survey was conducted on all the Finnish Evangelical-Lutheran military chaplains including Chaplain Seniors and the Field Bishop. The theoretical framework here is built on theories on professionalism and metamodernism. Military chaplains’ occupation combines both soldier’s and chaplain’s professions. Military chaplains’ work description includes religious services, ecclesiastical and ethical teaching and pastoral counselling. The topic is significant because of the Finnish and European societal change. The previous studies on military chaplaincy in Europe and The Nordic concern mostly on historical perspective.

2) Kirsten Donskov Felter, Jonas Ideström and Tone Stangeland Kaufman - Assembling ministry. A study of Professional Learning in Practice
While previous, international research on pastoral ministry and learning to a large extent has been shaped by the practice tradition indebted to Alasdair MacIntyre (Dykstra and Bass 2008, Scharen and Campbell-Reed 2016), this paper explores how the professional learning of pastors can be studied by drawing on Davide Nicolini’s more eclectically oriented ”toolkit approach to practice theory” (Nicolini 2012:213). The context of the paper is the initial phase of a Scandinavian, collaborative research project that seeks to study professional learning processes of recently graduated pastors (novices) during their first three years of ministry. Engaging in ongoing academic conversations on professional formation, the overall research project seeks to contribute to a deepened and more nuanced understanding of the interplay between formal training for the ministry and the learning processes that take place through professional practices. The project is shaped by a socio-cultural understanding of professional learning, and, thus, focuses on how learning takes place in and through concrete practices in the local ecclesial contexts. In dialogue with Nicolini’s contribution, this paper discusses affordances and constraints of choosing an eclectic approach to studying practices of learning in relation to the purpose and design of the Scandinavian study. 

3) Antje Roggenkamp - Which presentations do students of religious education conceive from their future professional lives?

In Germany, lessons of (confessional) religion are still part of timetables in schools. There are different normative models in which teachers have to assume their special role in between State, and Church, in between pupils and their parents, in between school and different religious societies (congregations). These models reclaim either a more generalist sight on the (future) tasks of those teachers (Lachmann), either a specific habitus in between different professional fields (Heil) or a certain spiritual understanding of this role (Pirner). In my contribution I analyse texts from students of religious education, in which they reflect the future role of teaching religion on their own. In this behalf I had asked them to answer the question: How do I conceive my future professional live as teacher of religion? Their reactions shows that the pastoral dimension has become an important part of thinking and reflecting. These results tells us that - in opposition to former strategies (Feige et al., Burrichter) - we have probably to pay more attention to spiritual care not only in normative concepts, but also in our formation for teachers of religions. Therefore it seems to be reasonable to reflect students propositions by the model of the four voices (Cameron, Kaufman).

4) Harald Nygaard - The sense of belonging among pastors within the Mission Covenant Church of Norway
My PhD-study aims to examine how pastors affiliated to the Mission Covenant Church of Norway experience the sense of belonging. According to Baumeister (1995), the need to belong is fundamental to human motivation. The following quote from a Swedish parish priest can stay as an introduction (Belfrage 2011, p. 79): “The culture in the church is doing something with us. It expels us priests and makes us a lone wolf. You feel isolated and empty inside” (my translation). This quote reflects the phenomenon of isolation and lack of social support, which are a quite common experience among priests and pastors from different denominations (Cotton et al., 2003, Nordeide et al., 2008). Such experiences reflect an ongoing existential struggle that challenges and shakes the foundation of the ministry for many priests and pastors. So far, I have conducted interviews with sixteen pastors using semi-structured qualitative interviews. The interviews have provided extensive data material on pastors’ experiences of different kind of relationships, such as being with family, friends, nature, and being alone. The presentation will focus on the initial empirical analysis of how relocations influence the pastor family’s sense of belonging.

5) Fredrik Saxegaard - The blessings and traps of shelters without pressure

How does participation in Christian youth work provide resources to high school students’ career choice processes? And to what extent does Church present itself as a viable context for higher education and work?
Theoretically, I view the process of selecting a career path as a trajectory through, and negotiation between, present and future practices.

I find that Church youth work provides rich resources for teenagers: partly because it is experienced as a stressfree shelter from the daily pressure of school and “social media life”, partly because it provides cultural tools useful for later career. Paradoxically, the success of being a haven without pressure for youngsters, communicates a practice that does not have sufficient resources to provide a rewarding life-long work environment. When all is said and done, the teenagers seem to know that “pressure” is a necessary and fulfilling part of life. 



Monday 10.12
From 11.00 Registration
12.00 Lunch
13.00 Welcome - Introduction to the topic of the conference
13.15 – 14.30 Keynote lecture 1 – Davide Nicolini Discussion (Chair :)
14.30 – 15.00 Coffee break
15.00 – 17.00 Mapping the landscape of practice theory – Tone Stangeland Kaufman,
                        Marlene Ringgaard Lorensen, Bård E. Hallesby Norheim and
                        Elisabeth Tveito Johnsen (lecture, group discussion and panel)                           
17.00 – 18.00 Dinner
18.00 – 19.30 Paper sessions
Time to socialize - feel free to ask a native for good bar tips!

Tuesday 11.12
08.45 - 08. 55 Morning prayer (in Norwegian)
09.00 – 10.30 Keynote lecture 2, Elaine Graham Discussion (Chair :)

10.30 – 11.00 Coffee break
11.00 – 12.30 Paper sessions
12.30 – 15.00 Lunch and leisure activity

                        1) Winter-run
                        2) Aerobic
                        3) Walk in the park
15.00 – 16.30 Keynote lecture 3 Kirstine Helboe Johansen Discussion (Chair :)
16.30 – 17.00 Coffee break
17.00 – 18.30 Paper sessions
19.30 Conference dinner – Markus parish hall

Wednesday 12.12
08.45 - 08.55 Morning prayer (in Norwegian)
09.00 – 10.30 Paper session
10.30 – 11.00 Coffee break
11.00 – 12.00 Closing Panel – Geir Afdal, Ulla Schmidt and Patrik Hagman
12.00 – 13.00 Lunch
13.00 – 14.00 Nordic Network for Theology and Practice, meeting

Program paper sessions

Program paper sessions


Paper sessions

Monday 18.30-20.00

  Place: 417 Chair: Marlene R. Lorensen Place: 412 Chair: Kati Tervo-Niemelä Place: 405 Chair: Joel Halldorf
18.30 Kirsten D. Felter and Jonas Ideström Birte Bernhardt Ryszard Bobrowicz
19.00 Andreas M. Gregersen Björn Asserhed Elin Lockenus
19.30 Linn S. Rystad Knut Tveitereid Chigemenzi-Nnadozie Wogu


Tuesday 11-12.30  

  Place: 417 Chair Tron Fagermoen Place 412, Chair: Kristin Graff-Kallevåg Place: 405, Chair: Hans Stifoss-Hansen
11.00 Laura Bjørg Serup Petersen Sini Hulmi Kati Tervo-Niemelä
11.30 Torsten Cress Joel Halldorf Harald Nygaard
12.00 Suvi-Maria Saareleinen   Fredrik Saxegaard


Tuesday 17-18.30


Place: 417 Chair: Lars Johan Danbolt

Place: 412, Chair: Hans Austnaberg Place: 405, Chair: Ninna Edgardh
17.00 Tiia Liuski Stephen Sirris Frida Mannerfeldt
17.30 Antje Roggenkamp Camilla Sløk Simon Hallonsten
18.00 Christine Tind Johannessen-Henry Hans Stifoss-Hansen and Peter Kevern Joel Appelfeldt


Wednesday 09-10.30

  Place: 417, Chair: Kirsten D. Felter Place: 412, Chair: Jonas Ideström
09.00 Viktor Aldrin Tormod Kleiven, Marianne Rodriguez Nygaard and Anne Austad
09.30 Gunnfrid L. Øierud Aüli Vähäkangas
10.00 Jakob E. Thorsen Dorte G. Kappelgaard



Keynote speakers

Keynote speakers

Keynote speakers

Keynotes: Elaine Graham, Davide Nicolini, and Kirstine Helboe Johansen

Elaine Graham serves as Grosvenor Research Professor of Practical Theology at the University of Chester, UK. Her research interests are: Theology and Practice, Religion and public life, especially ‘post-secular’ public theology, Religion, culture and gender, Technology and the ‘posthuman’ condition, and Media, culture and religion. As a practical theologian, she interested in the relationship between beliefs and actions, and whether religious commitment really makes a difference in today’s world.  In her teaching and research, she tries to encourage people to connect the values of faith to a critical engagement with the dilemmas of everyday life.

Davide Nicolini is a professor at Warwick Business School, University of Warwick and Director of IKON (Innovation, Knowledge & Organisational Networks Research Unit, Organisation & HRM, Organising Healthcare Research Network). His research interests are: Practice-based approaches to the study of knowing, learning, and change in organisations; innovation process in healthcare and other complex environments; advancement of action-based approaches to learning and change; study and promotion of safety. He also has experience in design and management of action-learning programmes and action-research based interventions.

Kirstine Helboe Johansen is an associate professor at the School of Culture and Society, University of Århus. Her research areas are in liturgy, rituals, and faith with an emphasis on the Theology of Worship, cognitive as well as cultural and symbolic approaches to rituals, and lived religion. Johansen’s latest research has been within the area of concrete forms of religious practice as theological expressions.


Call for papers

Call for papers

A large number of studies in practical theology examine or explore various practices. We welcome papers that report from- or reflect on research related to the conference theme through various theoretical, methodological, and empirical approaches, including:

  • papers that explore and discuss various traditions of- and approaches to practice theory, and how such theories are used in practical theological research and work
  • the production of theological knowledge in empirical studies in theology, including practical theology as a normative and constructive enterprise
  • case-studies of concrete practices of religious life, both in its organized forms as well as its everyday forms of ”lived religion”
  • new religious practices as a topic for theological research, and in practical theological research in particular
  • historical studies of religious practices
  • the relation between empirical and normative research in practical theology and other theological disciplines
  • implications for theological teaching and education

In addition, there will be an open channel for Ph.D. students to present their research in the area of practice and theology and/or within practical theology that might fall outside the scope of these topics.

Deadline for submission of paper abstracts: June 15th, 2018
To be sent to: practices@mf.no
Format: max. 200 words
Those who submit their paper abstracts within the deadline will receive a response by June 30th.