Theology at work
Adapted extract from Wesson, J. (1986), Theological Reflection on Practice, Foundations of Pastoral Studies and Practical Theology, University of Wales.
The objective of this exercise in theological reflection is that the team member is helped to begin to integrate his or her theological understanding (both formal academic and more personally intuitive) into his or her spiritual life within the context of work.
Where is God’s activity to be found in the situation the team member is exploring? Is the team member’s understanding of God limited so that he or she looks for his activity only in (say) a church framework or in personal, charismatic experience? What characteristics of God dominate in his or her thinking? Can the team member relate events and encounters with people (e.g. colleagues) to a theology of creation, providence or redemption? Does he or she show theological imagination in developing an understanding of God’s activity that is both true to Christian belief and relevant to the work context?
Is there any link between experiences encountered by the team member and some Biblical character or situation? Can he or she make connections with (say) a relevant issue addressed in a New Testament epistle or with the experiences of an Old Testament prophet or a gospel character? Are such links drawn with integrity and due hermeneutic rigour or has the team member a speculative tendency to make the Bible fit? How do proper connections throw light on an appropriate work strategy?
How are particularly painful or baffling work situations handled by the team member? Can he or she face and deal with ambiguity and complexity? Is there ability to work with a doctrine of God or an understanding of humanity that will make some sense of the complexity or does he or she show a tendency to run back into tidy formulations? Can the team member ultimately retain convictions and yet live with areas of uncertainty? Can he or she handle this ambiguity in encounters with other baffled people?
How has an event or encounter affected the level or pattern of the team member’s prayer life? Has he or she learned how to incorporate an ambiguous situation into his or her intercession? Has an experience resulted in a deeper meditative understanding of God and his purposes? Has the context promoted some new Biblical insight that has fed personal devotion?
What theological material demands further study as a result of the team member’s reflection on practice? Is there now an area (e.g. a theology of suffering, the nature of evangelism, the relationship of church and community) where more work should be done? Has he or she identified books, materials or people to help with study? What further support might be needed?