Those of us who no longer live in oral cultures may have
lost respect for storytelling as a vehicle of moral authority. Just give us the
facts, ma'am. We're data people, and we like it in writing. For us the
parabolic arts may be fine entertainment, but they're an unnecessarily messy
way of getting at the truth.
Pastoral ethnography is a strategy for listening to church members in a disciplined, attentive way. As a researcher, the pastor strives for a neutral attitude—which promotes honesty and greater understanding.
In C. S. Lewis's Studies in Words, the best book of his that you've never heard of, he describes the original meaning of the Latin term natura as something like "sort, kind, quality, or character." "When you ask, in our modern idiom, what something 'is like,'" he says, "you are asking for its natura."
The dream of a ladder linking earth to heaven is surely
among the most familiar images of biblical literature. From "We are Climbing
Jacob's Ladder" to "Stairway to Heaven," the idea has been deeply embedded in
our collective consciousness.
Gretta Vosper, a United Church of Canada pastor in Toronto, is prepared to fight a process that could defrock her. An avowed atheist, she maintains that behavior, not doctrine, should be the foundation of the church. She has the backing of her current members, but about 100 of the 150 people in her congregation left in 2008 after she did away with the Lord’s Prayer. A review process has been launched by the United Church’s General Council to examine whether Vosper has violated her ordination vows, which include affirming belief in a triune God (Globe and Mail, August 5).