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Sarah Penwarden —

Practical theology brings into focus God, us, and the world.

It invites us to consider how we live out our faith in our own contexts, seeking to enable “faithful participation in God’s practices, to, in and for the world.”[1] The three feature articles of this edition invite us to consider this call.

In 2019, Pope Francis used the scripture from Matthew 5:14 (“You are the light of the world”) in his guidelines for managing sexual abuse crimes in the Catholic church. Drawing on the metaphors of light, lamp, and bowl, in the first article, Christopher Longhurst suggests that those who speak up about abuse are being this “light of the world.” The second of our feature articles also offers a focus on speaking up or resisting power. Jackson Reinhardt, a graduate of Vanderbilt Divinity School, draws together postcolonial theory and Christianity to advocate for resistance to injustice in ways that do not involve either revolutionary violence or pacifism, but rather a form of “non-violent ethical action.” He bases this approach on the words and teachings of Jesus.

In our third article, Otago University emeritus professor of anatomy, Gareth Jones, writes about another way faith and life can intersect – through the healing capabilities of medication. Gareth looks at how recent emergence of the drug Trikafta – a kind of genetic medicine - which has been extremely effective for some suffering with cystic fibrosis, can also be seen an expression of Christian hope. He argues that God’s handiwork is involved in the creativity of humans in developing such medications.

Four other writers also focus on how faith and life can intersect. In Ministry Corner, Auckland tertiary chaplain Jill Shaw writes about the prophetic, priestly, and pastoral callings of a chaplain as they make a space for the spiritual within secular contexts. Music writer Peter Jellyman reflects on his love/hate relationship with Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, and on how grace can do its work through this song. In the Synergeo column, Bachelor of Counselling graduate, Max Fraser-Masters, writes about the place of courage in his counselling work, drawing on the idea of the world as good, as fallen, and as able to be redeemed. In Hearts & Minds, Laidlaw theology lecturer Maja Whittaker reflects on Christ’s incarnation and in particular, his humanness. She challenges us to consider how we can accept rather than denying, our human limitations.

To round out this edition, St Imulus is struggling his heavenly pub quiz. Then Jonathan Hoskin offers an evocative poem, reflecting on the Spirit’s work: “Until the heart is smooth.” Finally, we have a selection of book reviews to close.

For our next edition of Stimulus, we are putting out a Call for Papers on the theme of “Sustaining ourselves in a pandemic world.” We are interested in receiving papers on these or other relevant topics:

  •  Church life in a pandemic world
  •  Missions in a pandemic world
  •  Prayer and spirituality in relation to stress
  •  Ways to navigate burnout and find hope for those in ministry
  •  Christian actions in the world that can uplift us
  •  Biblical and/or theological reflections on sustaining oneself in challenging times

Papers need to be around 4,000 words in length and be aimed at a “thinking Christian” audience. Papers should include references. All papers go through a rigorous peer-review process. Please contact Fiona Sherwin for more information, email: fsherwin@laidlaw.ac.nz

We commend this issue to you. 

The Stimulus Editorial Team

[1] John Swinton & Harriet Mowat, “Practical Theology and Qualitative Research” (London: SCM, 2016), 7.