It was suggested to me last week that I might be able to use this project as a creative element of a PhD, expediting that particular goal. I've been thinking about it a lot since then, and also about the goals of the Esther project. I don't know if I'll be repeating myself on this blog, but if I am, with any luck, my thinking has progressed somewhat, even if it is a little circular.
Sandy, who is going to mentor and/or officially supervise me through this project/placement, asked me what I want to achieve through it. I hope the forming of this theatre company, for a year or longer, will help the Uniting Church to live out its stated goal to embrace alternative forms of Christian community, in order to provide opportunities for people to engage with alternative Christian community for them, to have their stories heard and to hear the sacred stories of God's relationship with creation throughout time.
Following on from that, I think a PhD from the Esther project itself could explore the question of How do performed stories continue to engage us, and how can we embrace performance arts in our Christian communities for healthy, vibrant worship, the spiritual development of individuals and communities, and partnership with the wider community? I'd like to explore the questions of How does story lead us to wholeness? How does it heal individuals, reconcile communities, invite encounter or allow exploration of encounter with the Sacred?
Part of me would be sorry not to do a PhD in the UK, for the opportunities the UK itself would offer, for the chance to study at another institution (this would mean every degree I've done is at Flinders, which is our family business, but which doesn't necessarily offer a variety of approaches to learning, though I have studied in many different areas), and, worst of all, for the ugly ugly PhD gown Flinders has. I really don't want to have to wear that gown at every academic function I ever attend in the future ... (I might be petty, or I might be a performer at heart)
Other than those concerns, however, PhD research into story and community, story and wholeness, story and the Sacred, is probably the best integration of my skills, passions and calling. In that respect, I am excited, and looking forward to making it happen.
With the placement, I have been asked to find a host congregation. The first congregation I approached is about to begin a process of reflecting on their direction, and understandably feels unable to commit to a role of host for this fledgeling company/community. So, I have a list of about 10 more congregations, and will begin this week the process of contacting the ministers for a chat to sound them out about the possibilities of their communities entering into a partnership with a theatre company / alternative Christian community. If you are reading this blog, your prayers for this process, and my openness to the Spirit as I discern the right place for my placement and this project will be appreciated.