Practical Theology III


Rites of Passage (Kasualien) as Family Celebrations (DFG-project)

Within the context of the proposal: Rites of Passage as Area and Concept of Practical Theology (PAK 876)

Term: October 2014 – September 2017

Staff: Fabienn Fronek

Rites of passage are family celebrations. They do not only affect the individuals or couples whose biographical passages are addressed, but also deal with the complex changes in the respective family system. Family members and friends constitute the larger part of the congregation gathered on the occasion of rites of passage. They significantly inform the familial part of the ceremony that follows the liturgical act of blessing.

What 'family' is, in which ways it constitutes itself, and how it understands itself, is orchestrated and symbolized on the occasion of rites of passage. The social change reflected in factual pluralization - foremost in a change of awareness and the value system - poses questions for theology and church; these can be specified using the example of church support of rites of passage.

The central question of our research is which (religious) interpretations rites of passage provide for familial cohabitations. The meaning of family shall be focused on in several aspects:

  1. First, we will empirically describe the familial group which gathers on the occasion of a rite of passage in its social relations.
  2. Secondly, we will document the family celebrations following the services and describe the self-presentations of this family.
  3. Finally, we will analyze the concepts of family and their religious interpretation in the service. Our focus will be on reciprocal communicative referential contexts between the service embedding the rite of passage and the family celebration. Our aim is to be able to describe the capacity for meaning-making of the church rite of passage for the familial cohabitation.

'Pastoral Care with Travelling Showmen – Lifeworld and Religious Meaning Making' (DFG-project)

Duration: 15. May 2013 – 14 May 2015

Team: Bernhard Eisel (Research Assistant), Dr. Kristin Merle und Prof. Dr. Birgit Weyel (Project Applicants), Viola-Kristin Rüdele (Student Assistant)

This project intends to develop a practical theology of pastoral care with travelling showmen. Practical theology has largely neglected pastoral care with circus and travelling show people. The distinct constitutions of the lifeworld and religious needs of travelling showmen have not been methodically reflected yet, neither is there a theoretical concept for specific pastoral counselling.

We use qualitative empirical surveys to observe, describe and interpret the social structures and lived religion of travelling showmen.

Studying the relationship between religious opinions, religious practices, mobility and the significance of institutional commitment of this distinctive occupational group is expected to render crucial results for practical theology as well as cultural studies because they can be seen as examples for modernized society in general.

'Selective Forms of Participation in Leisure and Touristic Programs of the Protestant Church of Germany as an Opportunity for Temporary Forms of Religious Community ('Gemeinde auf Zeit')' (EKD-project)

Duration: May 2012 – April 2015

Team: Prof. Dr. Peter Bubmann (Erlangen), Prof. Dr. Kristian Fechtner (Mainz), Prof. Dr. Birgit Weyel (Tübingen), Jonathan Kühn (Doctoral Student in Erlangen), Tanja Martin (Doctoral Student in Mainz), Kathrin Wanner (Doctoral Student in Tübingen) sowie Jürgen Schilling (EKD), Regional Bishop Prof. Dr. Stefan Ark Nitsche (Nürnberg) und Provost Dr. Sigurd Rink (EKHN)

The project centers on the German word “Gemeinde” which has many different connotations, such as community, parish, congregation, religious and political community. Very often it is related to the community in a “parish,” and thus to people who gather mainly in Sunday services, but it also carries a theological dimension, namely, the idea of a community that is based on communicating the word of the Holy Bible and administering sacraments.

Central to my research is the question of how selective participation in leisure and touristic offers comes to be. Who encounters church at these occasions and why? Which forms of community and especially of “Gemeinde” arise here? I will try to answer these questions by having a closer look at biblical journeys, services in nature and churches for cyclists. Methodically, I use interviews and questionnaires and additionally analyse four guestbooks for the example of churches for cyclists.

5. EKD Survey on Membership of the Evangelical Church in Germany

At an interval of 10 years, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) conducts a representative membership survey to find out more about the views its members hold about church. Traditionally, the survey has been centered on Protestants that are formally members of this church; however, this focus has been broadened to include Catholics, as well as the Unaffiliated. Also the methods have evolved from using standardized questionnaires to also include individual and group interviews.

Besides the already established questions on church membership and Christian life, the 5. KMU is particularly interested in communication and networks. Furthermore, looking at longitudinal data, the central questions of church development and key concepts of the change of church and society will be surveyed. The 5. KMU wants to provide a picture as complete as possible of the everyday reality of Protestant Christians, as well as the Unaffiliated and their respective contexts.

Prof. Dr. Birgit Weyel is part of the interdisciplinary advisory board together with Prof. Dr. Eberhard Hauschildt (Bonn), Prof. Dr. Jan Hermelink (Göttingen), PD Dr. Gerald Kretzschmar (Mainz), Prof. Dr. GertPickel (Leipzig) and Prof. Dr. Detlef Pollack (Münster).

You can find a brochure on results of the 5. KMU, as well as infographics and other materials, here.

Model project: Innovative Ways in/of Pastoral Care with People with Depressive Disorders

Begin: 1 June 2014

Project Management: Dr. Beate Jakob, Prof. Dr. Birgit Weyel; Research assistant: Annette Haußmann

With this project we want to make a contribution toward including people with psychiatric disorders in church congregations. Moreover, we aim for initiating processes of self-understanding in and of congregations that are concerned with the meaning of pastoral care in all congregational relations.

With selected congregations, we will stimulate and accompany processes of invigorating pastoral competences as well as establishing networks of congregational and psychiatric pastoral counselling. These case studies will be documented as best-practice examples. The respective methods, we draw from participatory action research and appreciative inquiry.

Two problem areas will be of particular interest: the issue of religious meaning-making of the illness (illness as a consequence of personal debt or lack in faith) and the helplessness and mental overload the volunteers feel in their dealings with people with depression.

For more information click here.