Those of us who no longer live in oral cultures may have
lost respect for storytelling as a vehicle of moral authority. Just give us the
facts, ma'am. We're data people, and we like it in writing. For us the
parabolic arts may be fine entertainment, but they're an unnecessarily messy
way of getting at the truth.
Pastoral ethnography is a strategy for listening to church members in a disciplined, attentive way. As a researcher, the pastor strives for a neutral attitude—which promotes honesty and greater understanding.
In C. S. Lewis's Studies in Words, the best book of his that you've never heard of, he describes the original meaning of the Latin term natura as something like "sort, kind, quality, or character." "When you ask, in our modern idiom, what something 'is like,'" he says, "you are asking for its natura."
The dream of a ladder linking earth to heaven is surely
among the most familiar images of biblical literature. From "We are Climbing
Jacob's Ladder" to "Stairway to Heaven," the idea has been deeply embedded in
our collective consciousness.
“No religion” is now the single largest group in England and Wales, according to British Social Attitudes data. Consisting of nearly half of the population, this group is twice the size of those who identify as Anglicans and four times the size of the Catholic population. A similar pattern prevails across Europe. The decline of Catholics in Britain would be more severe were it not for Christian immigrants from Africa and Asia. The data show that the church is poor at making converts and at keeping cradle believers. The Anglican and Catholic churches lose at least ten members for every convert (Guardian, May 27).