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.