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The Story of England and My Research

On the first full day of my vacation I decided to watch an episode of Michael Wood’s The Story of England. The whole series centers around the story of one village right in the middle of the country. It is the story of the common people, not the rich rulers. The episode I watched dealt with the earliest people–dating all the way back to the first century–up to the time of the Norman invasion. Prior to Wood’s research, very little was known about this period.

The researchers did something that I thought was fascinating and that ties somewhat into my own current research. They did a community archaeological dig. They advertised it and over 250 people volunteered to be part of it. This mass of people came together and were trained how to do proper archaeological digging and were each given a one meter square spot on the map. For many of them they were digging in their own back yard. Families were digging together–children, parents, and grandparents. Layer by ten-centimeter layer they dug deeper into their past. When they found things–pieces of pottery, bones, coins–they bagged and tagged them and then brought them to the experts. Through this process the village discovered that they had been the site of a Roman villa in the second and third century. They had also been inhabited by Vikings. They did DNA sampling as well and many of the citizens of this little village discovered that they were descendants of Vikings.

This whole episode was fascinating to me on many levels, but the piece that concerns me for this reflection is the communicative aspect of the research. The people did it in community. This wasn’t an expert coming in and telling them who they are and lecturing about their heritage. This was an expert coming in to equip and empower the people to discover who they were…together. After the digging the people would gather in the pub and discuss what they had discovered and the implications it had for their lives. I was moved by the interviews as common villagers said how they had been transformed by the experience.

I am contemplating doing Action Research for my dissertation. I am toying with the research question “How would an increased awareness and understanding of the Social Trinity impact the ideation and praxis of spiritual formation in an ELCA suburban congregation?” I want to work with several congregations and lead them through a communicative discovery process of the social trinity and missional community activities and then document the type of changes this may or may not bring to the system.

As I watched Michael Wood’s documentary I realized that what he was doing is similar to what I might do. I won’t be equipping people to dig holes in their back yards, but I will be equipping them to dig holes into their theology and their ideas about God and how to be transformed spiritually. My hope is that it won’t be abstract theological mumbo-jumbo, but that it will be real people wrestling with real issues, together. That is what it is all about in the end. How can we grapple with the reality of God and life…together; in community as community.

I look forward to continuing this journey.

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