Which way now?

IMG_1960I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about death and loss recently, not only from a personal perspective, but also academically. I’ve been writing an academic study of the things people place on cremation plots – how they remember their loved ones. My study was quantitative (yes, I really did count bunches of flowers and cat ornaments) but behind each item there is a story, a memory, a reason. Every item is placed because it had significance in a relationship of importance – and just because the relationship is over, it doesn’t mean the feelings stop. Every time I counted another cherub (and some of them were really not to my taste), I remembered that they are a symbol of love to the person who put them there.

I’ve finally finished writing the study, and realised it’s left me feeling quite gloomy, so I need to think hard about what I study next. I have a year in which to produce 18,000 words to MA standard, and I have a pretty free hand about the subject. I think I’ve done enough death and loss in 2013, so don’t really want to extend this study. I don’t mind the graveyards, it’s the books about death which are getting me down!

I quite fancy the idea of testing my academic theological reflection method with some “willing” volunteers, but suspect that will run to a lot more than 18,000 words, so could save it for my doctoral thesis in a year’s time. So in the meantime I could do some heavy philosophy to back up or break my methodology, but my head may explode. I think it’s likely to be the theological and philosophical equivalent of partial differential equations, which I was rubbish at solving.

Or I could find myself a nice friendly parish based research question, which might be useful in practical rural ministry. Any ideas, anyone?

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8 responses to “Which way now?

  1. The roles of rural church members in volunteering outside the church? And motivation? How do they articulate this in terms of their churchgoing/faith/spirituality.
    Would build very nicely on ARC’s “Faith in Rural Communities”.
    I could suggest more šŸ™‚ Email or phone if you need to!

  2. Geography, online social media, and how people identify themselves as part of communities? A lot of this stuff seems to be done with urban settings in mind.

    • Thanks Kathryn. There has been a lot written on rural community, and much lamenting its demise in many places (which is actually about change!) but not much on SocMed impact yet. I might make some enquiries – of course, in some places, fast reliable Internet access is a future dream…..

  3. When I was in the Cambridge circuit and had students come and spend time with me, I used to walk around some of our local cemeteries with them to see the grave stones and the words graven upon them. We then used this as the starter of a discussion for what this actually said about the deceased’s relatives view of death and dieing, and in certain cases the deceased. One particular one that always caused comment was a Winnie-the-Pooh gravestone for a child, with Pooh holding onto a balloon. What is this saying? We then went on to think about how we responded to this in our funeral liturgy. (For the record I would love to work on this with you if interested (I did used to be the minutes sec of JLG – so I have an interest)).

    • Hi Ian, yes it’s a rich field , and I found it interesting to note the possible disjoint between the ‘professional’ bit of death and funeral (right up to the installation of a memorial stone) and the personal bit, which for some involves regular visits and leaving items. You of all people will also understand that too much study of death, if it happens to combine with difficult parish deaths, tends to bite me quite hard. I am extremely torn between knowing I can contribute something valuable (and I’d not only love to work with you on this, I am aware that I have a significant ministry in this area) and self protection. I’ve done a huge amount of healing over the years, but there is always more to do! Huge thanks for suggestion, which appeals….I will think and pray.

      • There is something about the “professional” in here and how “we” deal with it that is relevant. You will remember that I led part of my Mum’s funeral, and I had put the thing together, written the tribute (which the Minister did not follow) etc. It meant that I approached the day “as a Minister” and not “as a son”. This has come back to bite me later since I did not do my grieving at the time. Where is the place for the clergy to grieve. It is right and proper for us to be the one who does not falter on the day and the one that others can rely upon – no one wants to see the Minister/Vicar blub. But, we are human and called into relationship with our flock, and we grieve for them when they die. Never sure that we can get this “right” but it might be an interesting route to explore, BUT only if you felt you could do this without ripping yourself apart!!

      • Oh Lord, yes this is important and interesting. Enabling grief in others whilst dealing with our own behind closed doors. We need a conversation I think Ian šŸ™‚

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