An Exercise in Lay Theology
Master of Arts in Pastoral Theology
This writer was asked to develop and present to a voluntary class at his home church a theologically oriented program that would serve three basic purposes. The first was to generate additional parishioner interest in church programs due to a very noticeable drop in that interest following some rather difficult experiences with an interim pastor. This was during the time that the Church was involved in the pastoral search process which within the Presbyterian system is both cumbersome and time consuming, usually taking approximately eighteen months to complete. The second purpose was to introduce lay church members to the process of theological/philosophical education and reflection, using authors requested by the group that have frequently been quoted by this writer in Sunday School Classes, workshops, laysermons, funeral services, and eulogies over a number of years. This aspect of the program relates to both of the purposes referred to above and below. The group to whom this program was being presented included those with serious and long-term struggles with the rationality of belief in an ever more scientific/technologically oriented world having at its core a powerful dependence upon and faith in science and reason that go back to the Enlightenment. Some of the participants are physicians and/or other highly educated individuals who find themselves frequently at odds with their faith, disturbed by Christianity’s history of oppression and destructiveness, as well as questioning if they want to be identified with a faith system that is becoming increasingly more fundamentalist, and what they perceive as “intellectually dishonest.” The third, and maybe most important purpose, was related to the fact that there had been a series of tragic deaths and traumas within the church family and the surrounding community which had left many persons, not only with intense grief with which to cope, but also severe doubts as to how to maintain a “rational faith” in the face of such profound existential experiences.