We hosted some friends from Australia this weekend. We took them to a very nice hotel for afternoon tea and to one of our favourite retreat churches. While we were having afternoon tea we were discussing how difficult many students find it to write about a situation they have theologically reflected within and upon. I shared this spontaneous example of theological reflection and the difference to applied theology.
I reflected upon how we were relating with the hotel staff. I asked our friends how do we think we are treating them and why? They replied they thought and observed we were being polite, respectful, thankful. I suggested the reason why we were doing this was because we were enacting principles of our faith, perhaps even going as far as saying loving our neighbour as ourselves, applied theology, doing Biblical theology. We were not asking the staff’s permission to be nice to them, we just did it. Why, because we held certain Biblical texts as truths to be lived out or applied.
I suggested that before we did theological reflection, it was best to have a clear, simple process to follow. I really like:
Stage 1 What? The experience
Stage 2 So What? Engage process, the experience with faith resources
Stage 3 Now What? Do, learn something etc because of processing the experience.
I then asked our friends what they had experienced, felt, learnt during our afternoon tea (stage 1 what?)? I then asked the two questions which help facilitate theological reflection:
l. What new insight might I learn about our faith, God or the kingdom?
2. What within my faith helps me engage with this experience?
We shared together how we had felt the staff had been – friendly and hospitable. This had made us feel welcomed, comfortable, even though we were not dressed overly smartly and perhaps had signs of having just come from a walk on Bodmin Moor! (Stage 2, so what?). We projected that this is how we could seek to make visitors to church feel (stage 3, Now what?). A quick, simple example, but I am sure you get the idea .
This lesson regarding learning from faith insights from everyday experienced was reinforced when we visited a church the next day. They were getting ready for a service and restriction ropes were being put up and down. In what area of the church the rope has been tied to a pillar and one of our friends walked into the crossing part of the nave to take in the beauty of the breadth, depth, and height of the magnificent building. He was then told off by one of the guides for walking where he shouldn’t have been because it was a holy part of the church. I was glad he was already a Christian!