Transforming Liturgies: the autoethnography of a prison chaplain

Orr, Annette Sheena (2021) Transforming Liturgies: the autoethnography of a prison chaplain. DPT thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
[img] PDF
Download (2MB)


Much has been written about chaplaincy, but little about prison chaplaincy, and even less about prison chaplaincy by the chaplain. Within the UK the Anglican male voice dominates. This research project offers four distinct perspectives: a Scottish voice; a prison chaplain's voice (compared to that of chaplaincy); a feminist voice; and, shaped by the latter, an autoethnographic voice. The impetus for the project was the commitment of the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), following the Organisational Review of 2013, to "Transforming Lives". The change in how somebody thinks and behaves is not only central to Christian transformation but to that of desistance theory. The question faced by prison chaplains is "what is my transformational role in an organisational culture where custody and order take primacy over care and opportunity"? What transformational opportunities exist in a custody setting and how do I understand my role in the encounters I have? Most of the data was gathered by journalling through, and shaped by, the Church Year of 2017-18. Drawing on feminist qualitative research methods, six autoethnographic pieces were crafted to portray a variety of situations, encounters, and issues within the prison setting. As a spiritual practice, repeated attention was then paid to these pieces to discern patterns, nuance and significance. James K.A. Smith’s concept of "liturgies" (the work of the people) is used to frame the contrasting ways of encountering people and the potential for transformation in those meetings. The underlying worldview of chaplain and prison are examined, and the resulting liturgies identified – some graceful, some disgraceful. The reality of tension, cooperation and complicity are revealed in the day-to-day work of the chaplain as an employee of the SPS. The unseen and unspoken witnessing of trauma emerges as a powerful liturgy amongst a prison population representing some of the most marginalised in society. The importance and distinctive liturgical nature of making fragmented spaces for Sanctuary and Sabbath for all, are emphasised. Finally, the chaplain's practice of transformative liturgies is associated with the "new person" emerging from Bandura's work on self-efficacy and thus with desistance theory. Identifying the transformative in everyday liturgies has radical implications for how people are treated inside prison and how they are welcomed into our church and community once released.

Item Type: Thesis (DPT)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: prison, chaplain, chaplaincy, autoethnography, liturgy, secular liturgies, transformation, desistance, fragmented, ordinary, Scottish Prison Service.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BV Practical Theology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Walton, Professor Heather
Date of Award: 2021
Depositing User: Rev Dr Sheena Orr
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-82108
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 09 Apr 2021 13:29
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2022 09:15
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82108

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year