Cooking up locally-sourced theology

Zoom screenshot of participants in chef's hats

The second cohort of students at the Bath & Wells hub began the CMS Certificate in Pioneer Mission course in September, socially-distanced at Flourish House. They have had two more modules since then on Zoom. Zoom-based modules have been tiring, but still for the most part creative and stimulating, challenging participants to think beyond their current boundaries.

Fiona Law is a stowaway on the course from Exeter Diocese, where she is exploring ways of connecting with spiritual seekers online in a Grief Cafe and through the practice of yoga. She shares her experience below about Module 3, ‘Doing Theology’, which was taught through the metaphor of cooking. You’ll see she continues to play in the metaphor as she writes:

Food was a metaphor that mushroomed on our most recent module. The weekend was, of course, tasty, nourishing, a little bit tangy in places, intriguingly sourced and creative!

Over the sessions we investigated our local culture, using ingredients to cook up a local theology. The module facilitators had sent us each a box of goodies in advance including a pizza base mix we made up at lunchtime. The toppings we added helped us think about how we can forage the cultural assets of our contexts – local myths, history, geography, celebrities, songs etc – from the place where God has placed us to help develop a ‘local theology’.

You can see us in the photo in our chef’s hats, adorned with symbols of our ministry gifts, and badges to keep us oriented in the right direction.

We built on our ‘Reading Culture’ module (the first of six modules on the course) to think about where people get their ‘food’: what aspects of contemporary culture give satisfaction and meaning? We were challenged to find theology in some edgy songs and reflected briefly on theologies in response to society and culture (eg from a feminist, liberation, black and LGBTI+ perspective).

We were invited to cook up an idea for a stall for a big food event at Weston Pier this summer. Our group’s ‘Feast or Famine’ was based on the feeding of the five thousand, and gratitude and generosity with vox pop videos for visitors to reflect on the Covid experience. We developed it using Laurie Green’s reflective practice spiral.

We considered ‘The Christ We Share’ alternative images of Jesus from around the world, and how these representations of what is so familiar to us from our normal church life can challenge us. And we loved Jonny Baker’s ‘London Christ’ collage of the disciples as ordinary lads, Thomas looking a bit wrecked. Out of this provocation, in our group we curated our own ‘Somerset Jesus’: a reclamation yard hipster-ish type who makes all things new.

Overall, I learned that pioneer theology is rooted in the culture of the context and needs to affirm what God is already doing, and anticipate what is not yet. The training was very thoughtfully and creatively put together, and produced for us the soul food community-building of Jesus’ love.

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