A local church – a gathered people: A congregational study of St Margaret’s Newlands, a traditional gathered congregation on the Southside of Glasgow

McTernan, Margaret (2022) A local church – a gathered people: A congregational study of St Margaret’s Newlands, a traditional gathered congregation on the Southside of Glasgow. DPT thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis is a congregational study based in St Margaret’s Newlands, a gathered congregation that belongs to the Scottish Episcopal Church, located in the south of Glasgow. For nearly ten years, I was first curate, then assistant priest in the congregation, and increasingly interested in how the congregation related to its local area. The study was designed in order to explore the ongoing role of traditional congregations in a suburban Scottish context in the twenty-first century, particularly in the light of Mission Shaped Church and its proposal for a mixed economy of traditional congregations and fresh expressions of church.

The methodology the study applies is Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. I conducted and analysed semi-structured interviews with eight members of the congregation This approach enabled me to present the experience of the congregation members interviewed, and also to reflect theologically on the themes that emerged. There were three overarching themes. The first of these was the participants’ experience of worship and the sense they made of the liturgy, an area that has received surprisingly little research attention in congregational studies. Participants valued how the liturgy engaged them as actors not passive observers. The second theme was the participants’ experience of the congregation as a community, and the spiritual and social support they experienced there. Participants identified the significance of the relationships they found there and were committed to playing their part in the life of the congregation. The third theme was the sense of disconnect between the congregation and its local area. Participants expressed a desire to bridge this through responding to social need in the area and beyond, while acknowledging the challenges in putting this into practice.

The picture of the congregation that emerged from the study was of a worshipping community that was committed to God and to one another,and concerned for the needs of the congregation’s local area and beyond. The study highlights the challenge of defining a “local” congregation, in which many members live some distance from the church building. This is an important finding since in contemporary urban settings, many parish churches are increasingly operating with characteristics that are typical of gathered congregations. By reflecting on what this gathered congregation offers to its members and the local area, I am able to offer some insights into how traditional congregations, whether parish or gathered, may operate within the mixed economy of church in a way that is both faithful to their tradition and relevant to their social context.

Item Type: Thesis (DPT)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BV Practical Theology
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Methuen, Professor Charlotte and Gay, Rev. Doug
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-82957
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 14 Jun 2022 15:20
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2022 15:29
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82957
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/82957

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