God's story is my story: the application of a narrative epistemology to preaching

Author: Tanya Wittwer

Wittwer, Tanya, 2011 God's story is my story: the application of a narrative epistemology to preaching, Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts

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This dissertation applies the orienting principles and key processes of narrative practice to the preaching of sermons and the teaching of preaching. Narrative practice is a practical application of a narrative epistemology. A narrative epistemology suggests that we make meaning in our lives by constructing a multi-storied narrative that relates our experiences in a somewhat linear fashion. The personal narrative is negotiated with our community and society, and has real impacts on our identity and life. Through therapeutic conversations the narrative practitioner assists people to recognise the hopeful, preferred and previously unrecognized storylines which open up the possibility of a changed relationship to the issue about which they are seeking assistance. The therapeutic process can be conceptualised as the collaborative reauthoring of the personal narrative. From the parallels found in narrative practice, this dissertation proposes that the transformational capacity of the sermon may be its contribution to the reauthoring of the personal narrative to embrace its intersection with God's story. The specific processes of narrative practice which are explored for their application to preaching include that of scaffolding for meaning, the use of metaphor and image, and 'deconstructive' techniques. The position of the preacher is considered, as are the role of the congregation and the liturgical context of sermons. Suggestions are made regarding an approach to teaching preaching from a social-constructivist perspective. The dissertation concludes that a narrative epistemology provides a vehicle for linking together much that is known about effective preaching, and may therefore be a useful concept to reflect upon when approaching the preaching task, and a useful framework for the teaching of preaching.

Keywords: homiletics,narrative therapy,narrative practice,preaching,scaffolding,social-constructivist,personal narrative

Subject: Theology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2011
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: Professor Andrew Dutney; Rev Dr Peter Lockwood