A Tourist Theology: The Spiritual Experience of Visitors to Rural Churches

Betson, M. J. (2019) A Tourist Theology: The Spiritual Experience of Visitors to Rural Churches. Doctoral thesis, University of Chichester.

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Abstract

Outside of normal worship and community activities there are a significant number of people who visit churches. For some the visitor numbers exceed the numbers at normal worship. However, little in depth research has been conducted on the experience of these visitors, particularly their spiritual experience. Therefore, no substantial or authoritative theology has been developed to support them and those responsible for the church they enter.

This study focuses on visitors to rural churches, where existing research in Rural Theology has called for there to be more detailed studies with visitors. To do this the use of language by the visitors to describe their experiences has been advocated as the most fruitful area of study. Responding to this, we have used semi-structured interviews with self-selected visitors to key rural churches, who have produced more detailed material for theological reflection.

Given that the most commented on feature of the church buildings was their association with people, and that some degree of English culture featured in the language used; the theological reflection was undertaken from a sociological basis using particularly the work of Zigmunt Bauman, on the post-modern character to suggest a theology that may underpin the spiritual experience of visitors.

Based on Bauman’s identity of the tourist as a post-modern approach to living, a ‘tourist theology’ has been developed that takes the idea of the tourist as someone who is perpetually looking for new and attractive destinations; but for whom there is the need that they proceed from a home, the safe and comforting environment that in reality may not exist for them.

These rural churches provide the image of that home in the community they imagine, one that is a safe and comfortable place to be, and for the visitor generates an experience of deep and profound peace. As well as having a positive effect on the visitor, this experience offers the opportunity for the Church to have an engagement with a wider range of people than just those that come on a Sunday morning.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Uncontrolled Keywords: rural, church, tourist, ordinary theology, Bauman
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BV Practical Theology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Academic Areas > Institute of Arts and Humanities > Theology, Philosophy and Religion
Student Research > Doctoral
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Depositing User: Debbie Bogard
Date Deposited: 06 Jan 2022 11:57
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 11:57
URI: https://eprints.chi.ac.uk/id/eprint/6110

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