As a mother tenderly: exploring parish ministry through the metaphor and analogy of mothering

Percy, Emma (2012) As a mother tenderly: exploring parish ministry through the metaphor and analogy of mothering. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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As a mother tenderly: using mothering as a metaphor and analogy for parish ministry.

The thesis sets out to use maternal imagery as a way of articulating the practice of parish ministry in the Church of England. The aim is to find a language which can affirm and encourage many aspects of good practice that are in danger of being over looked because they are neither well articulated nor valued. The ministry of a parish priest is a relational activity: characterised by care. It is because the priest has a responsibility to care for those entrusted to her that she engages in priestly activity. In doing so she is sharing in the collective ministry of the church in which she has a pivotal and public role. The church is to be a community in which people grow up in Christ and come to maturity of faith.

In order to explore the relational activity of a parish priest the imagery of mothering is used. The changing place of women in society has made it more difficult to use gendered images and thus it is necessary to discuss whether mothering is an essentially female activity. After acknowledging the complexity of the gendered language and the reality that most women arrive at mothering through a specifically female bodily experience, the thesis goes on to state that the practice of mothering is not instinctual but learnt. It involves learning through a relationship with a particular child and what is learnt are human ways of being and doing which are not gender specific.

As the child is a growing developing human being the relationship and activity needs to be adaptable and contingent, requiring concrete thinking. Sara Ruddick’s Maternal Thinking offers a philosophical understanding of mothering as a practice shaped by three demands which are all good and often conflict. Using her understanding of mothering and drawing on Hanah Arendt’s categories of human activity the thesis explores the practice of mothering. The thesis then uses this understanding of mothering as a way of reflecting on the practice of parish ministry.

As a relational activity parish ministry needs to value particularity and concrete contingent responsiveness. Intersubjective relationships need to be maintained and the virtues cultivated that guard against the temptations to intrusive or domineering styles of care on the one hand or passive abnegation of responsibility on the other. Parish ministry cannot be understood in terms of tangible productivity so different ways of understanding success and evaluating priorities need to be articulated. The thesis suggests ways of thinking about and describing aspects of parish ministry that highlight the kinds of practices that enable people to flourish. The use of maternal imagery is not intended to suggest that women have a better access to these ways of being and doing, nor that congregations are like children. Mothering at its best seeks to create the relationships and spaces in which people grow up and flourish. Times of dependency are part of that but maturity and reciprocal relationships of interdependence is the goal.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Kilby, K.E.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BX Christian denominations
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 12576
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 19 Sep 2012 14:23
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2017 20:23

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