A Disrupting Word: Preaching a Theology of "God as Event" to Engage Theological Reflection
The project outlined in this thesis examined the role of preaching in engaging members of an established, traditional congregation by using the narrative, inductive style of the New Homiletic, with the theological lens of John Caputo’s “God as Event.” This project took place over five weeks at the First Baptist Church of Williams, with the primary goals of examining how members of the congregation hear theology in sermons, use what they hear to articulate their own theological beliefs, and how discussing such theology leads to the identification of an emerging, local theology. Eight members of Williams volunteered to participate in five focus group sessions which met the afternoon of each Sunday when the sermons were preached. During these sessions I served as a participant-observer, keeping the focus group sessions on track with guiding questions, while recording each session for data analysis. The data collected from these focus group sessions was analyzed in order to examine how the project met the three goals described. The focus group data demonstrated how members of the congregation had heard the theology present in the sermons, often repeating words, phrases, and specific theological ideas directly from the sermon. The data demonstrated how participants borrowed this language to describe their own beliefs, while also reflecting critically on the theological ideas presented in the sermons. Furthermore, the data showed how these eight members began to identify a local theology in the congregation and surrounding community and how they might critically engage with this emerging, local theology. There is the potential for further study concerning the role of preaching in shaping theology in the postmodern, post-Christian era. There is also potential for studying how preaching itself may make space for deconstruction within the confines of a traditional congregation. This project presents the possibility for wider conversations concerning preaching’s role in the theological development of the postmodern Church.
Thomas, Christopher Paul