Bonnie Miller-McLemore (one of my favorite authors) has said that PT is 4 main things.
“Moving from practical theology’s concrete embodiment to its specialized use:
- An activity of believers seeking to sustain a life of reflective faith in the everyday.
- A method or way of analyzing theology in practice used by religious leaders and by teachers and students across the theological curriculum,
- A curricular area in theological education focused on ministerial practice and sub-specialties.
- An academic discipline pursued by a smaller subset of scholars to support and sustain these first three enterprises.
Each understanding points to different spatial locations, from daily life to library and fieldwork to classroom, congregation, and community, and, finally, to academic guild and global context The four understandings are connected and interdependent … and reflect the range and complexity of practical theology today.
Practical theology is a term with loaded and over-lapping meanings. It appears in a broad array of spaces and places. It refers to at least four distinct enterprises with different audiences and objectives.”
Why do I love it?
I love practical theology for three very specific reasons
- It recognizes people’s experience of the divine as a valid location for theological reflection. It says, “your experience of the transcendent matters“.
- It explores communities of faith and concrete existence as a living document. People are not objects to be studied but subjects with their own agency and perspective.
- It prioritizes an embodied and enacted view of faith and life. It says, “what we do really matters“.
Humans are both formed and informed by their physical experience and mental frameworks. The narratives that frame our existence help us to both interpret events and they inspire action.
My desire is to both account for and attend to the different registers that all of this is happening on in order to understand and direct the impact they have on us as individuals and communities.