Kaufman, “A Plea for Ethnographic Methods”

Kaufman, Tone Stangeland.  2014.  “A Plea for Ethnographic Methods and a Spirituality of Everyday Life in the Study of Christian Spirituality: A Norwegian Case of Clergy Spirituality.” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 14(1): 94-102.

Excerpt: What counts as “real spirituality” or “real pastoral spirituality”? What can be sustainable sources of spiritual nourishment for clergy and others who are employed by the church? These questions might call for a wider understanding of pastoral spirituality than has traditionally been the case, and also for the willingness to look for such spirituality outside the explicitly “religious or spiritual sphere.” The quotes above are taken from open ended, in-depth interviews with ordained pastors in my Norwegian, Lutheran context. The twenty-one strategically sampled interviewees of this study on clergy spirituality all served as pastors in the Church of Norway (CofN) at the time they were interviewed.

At the outset of my research, my focus was primarily the contemplative or devotional practices of the clergyHowever, during the analysis, the salience and significance of everyday practices related to children and family life began emerging as a pattern worth exploring more in depth. This is a discovery that I would have probably not reached had I only studied classical texts written by spiritual figures such as Julian of Norwich, St. John of the Cross, or Evelyn Underhill.

This essay, then, has a twofold purpose; one material and one methodological. Materially, it makes a plea for the significance of an everyday spirituality not only for lay (people), but also for clergy, at least in non-Catholic traditions. This might also apply to lay leaders and deacons in Catholic contexts. Methodologically, I want to suggest that an ethnographic approach might enrich the study of Christian spirituality by expanding the sources (or data) to be explored, and by challenging or nuancing existing categories of the field. The ethnographic lens gives access to the spiritual experiences of contemporary people who have not written—or are not in the position to write—spiritual texts themselves.

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