Poetry, Practical Theology and Reflective Practice  book cover
1st Edition

Poetry, Practical Theology and Reflective Practice

ISBN 9781472484253
Published March 26, 2019 by Routledge
214 Pages

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Book Description

This groundbreaking study offers an innovative critical analysis of poetry as a resource for reflective practice in the context of continuing professional development. In the contemporary drive in all professions for greater rigour in education, training, and development, little attention is paid to the inner shape of learning and meaning-making for individuals and groups, especially ways in which individuals are formed for the task of their work.

Building on empirical research into the author’s professional practice, the book takes the use of poetry in clergy continuing ministerial development as a case-study to examine the value of poetry in professional learning. Setting out the advantages and limitations of poetry as a stimulant for imaginative, critical reflexivity, and formation within professional reflective practice, the study develops a practical model for group reflection around poetry, distilling pedagogical approaches for working effectively with poetry in continuing professional development.

Drawing together a number of strands of thinking about poetry, Practical Theology, and reflective practice into a tightly argued study, the book is an important methodological resource. It makes available a range of primary and secondary sources, offering researchers into professional practice a model of ethnographic research in Practical Theology which embraces innovative methods for reflexivity and theological reflection, including the value of auto-ethnographic poetry.

Table of Contents


1 Locating the origins and context of the study

2 Researching poetics

3 Poetry in professional development: a case-study

4 Reflective practice poetry groups: pedagogy and process

5 The generative power of poetry in reflective practice

6 Conclusion and implications

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Mark Pryce is a practical theologian, poet and Anglican priest. He is a leading practitioner in ministerial formation and continuing ministerial development, serving as Director of Ministry for Church of England Birmingham. Mark is Chaplain to The Queen, an Honorary Canon of Birmingham Cathedral, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Visiting Research Fellow at The Queen’s Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education Birmingham, and Visiting Scholar of Sarum College, Salisbury.


‘I am delighted to see the publication of this highly original book, (one of) the first to critically evaluate the use of poetry in theological reflection on practice.  In it, Mark Pryce consolidates his reputation as both a brilliant poet and a shrewd analyst. The book is worth buying for its poems alone, but provides so much more. An innovative, essential – and very enjoyable – addition to the literature of Practical Theology.’ – Stephen Pattison, Professor of Religion, Ethics and Practice & HG Wood Professor of Theology, University of Birmingham, UK

‘This book contains much scholarly resource, alongside theological and practical wisdom, which can enable clergy and practical theologians to reflect on their practice and way of being in, and encounter with, their world, through the medium of poetry.

At a time when self-care and reflective practice is increasingly recognised as an important part of spiritual formation, practical theology and in building resilience in dealing with an evermore increasing complexity that is ‘Ministry’, Mark Pryce offers a useful book that gives permission for self-awareness to be embraced, creatively freed and developed through Reflective Practice Poetry Groups, which in turn offer opportunities for grounding, understanding and creativity towards being a more effective Priest, Pastor, and Practical Theologian.’ – Peter Madsen Gubi, Professor of Counselling and Spiritual Accompaniment, University of Chester, UK and Minister of Dukinfield Moravian Church, UK

‘This is both a useful and a beautiful book. It is useful in the contribution it makes to developing reflective practice within faith-based communities. It offers new resources to practitioners and outlines processes of ‘poetic’ theological reflection that will be of immense value not only in pedagogy and professional development but also in personal formation and pastoral care. The beauty of the book lies in its poetic vision and the manner in which it celebrates poetry as fruit of the creative spirit which enlivens faith but cannot be confined within its bounds.’ – Heather Walton, Professor of Theology and Creative Practice, University of Glasgow, UK

‘This is a hugely valuable contribution to the growing canon of research methods literature in Practical Theology which shows, from the inside, how a skilled reflective practitioner goes about his work. It will inform and inspire all those wishing to combine forms of creative practice with advanced research enquiry.’ – Elaine Graham, Grosvenor Research Professor of Practical Theology, University of Chester, UK

‘This book is essential reading for all who are involved with ministerial formation as well as those who want to reflect deeply on the practice of priesthood today. The assurance and clarity with which the author explores the tension between formation, creativity and growth and the pressures of ecclesiastical politics and bureaucracies reveals his expertise and decades of experience in this field. An unexpected delight is the deep reflection on the role of poetry within theology as heart language about God, a new window with which to explore a creative and expansive view of the divine. His research on the use of poetry within clerical professional development is ground-breaking and provides an excellent model for theological reflection, as well as demonstrating the potential of poetry as attentiveness, practical wisdom and as a space for diverse and silenced voices. Qualitative and practitioner researchers will also find in this book an honesty and transparency about the research process which is refreshing and helpful, and highly reflexive. A highly enjoyable book to challenge and inspire.’ – Manon Ceridwen James, Director of Formation for Licensed Ministry for the Church in Wales, St Padarn’s Institute, UK


‘The power of poetry is that it has the ability to unlock the anarchic, the beautiful, the prophetic and the pain. In this book Mark Pryce explains to us how poetry can reshape our world - both interior and exterior - and then through a series of facilitated workshops shows us what this looks like.  Mark unlocks for us the impact poetry can have and explores how poetry can make us more attentive not only to our own lives but also to those of others.  This is a highly practical book that shows us this process at work. Irish poet and philosopher, John O'Donohue claims that beauty is not a luxury but a necessity.  I believe the same is true of poetry and Mark demonstrates that superbly in this wonderfully readable book.’ – Cathy Ross, Tutor in Contextual Theology, Ripon College Cuddesdon and MA Coordinator for Pioneer Leadership Training at CMS; Canon Theologian Leicester Cathedral, UK


‘There are so many important voices in this book: the scholars and theorists whose work is so well represented and ordered here, the poets whose words break like cloudburst on page after page, the clergy whose wisdom is drawn out by the author’s patience and care in the practice of verbatim. And the result is extraordinary, often beautiful. Mark Pryce—himself poet, practical theologian and clergy educator—has produced an astonishing book, at once diligent, adventurous, moving and deft. Very highly recommended.’ – Stephen Burns, Professor of Liturgical and Practical Theology, Pilgrim Theological College, University of Divinity, Melbourne, Australia

‘In this wonderful, rich, imaginative study of poetry and of people, Mark Pryce makes visible and accessible the fruits of a fascinating piece of reflexive research in practical theology. It is a hospitable book, inviting the reader in, and richly opening up our imagination. It tells us about research, about poetry , and about what it means to be a reflective practitioner. The book is shot through with the ‘transparently particular voice’ of the poems, and with the engaging voices of the researcher and his participants. A treasure!’ – Zoe Bennett, Practical Theologian and Ruskin Scholar. Former Professional Doctorate Programme Leader, Anglia Ruskin University, UK

‘This is a very remarkable and radical book. It offers an overview of the history of ministerial development in the Church of England as the cultural forces of professionalization and accountability have taken shape amongst the clergy. There is an insightful and highly fluent understanding of the nature of Pastoral and Practical Theology and this is put to innovative use through reflective practice poetry groups. In the insightful analysis the radicalism of what poetry can release in individuals as listening and attentiveness to human experience in the light of faith is explored. Grounded, expansive and imaginative, with intellectual rigour of the highest quality, are key features of these chapters. It represents a major contribution to the developing literature on reflective practice that can reshape role, identity and practice. Researchers will find a trusted guide through the meticulous description of the research process. Practitioners will see demonstrated the practice of theology and a significant contribution to the discipline. In this complex academic terrain, Mark Pryce, writes clearly and beautifully demonstrating his own skill as an educator and communicator.’ – James Woodward, Principal of Sarum College, Salisbury, UK and Visiting Professor in Theology, University of Winchester, UK

"This reviewer yearned for each of these stanzas to be its own chapter. Overall this is a good sign in a book. It’s a rare occasion that a reader leaves an academic book wishing the book were longer. When this happens the reviewer should conclude by recommending the book to others. This review will close by doing just that." - Mark Pyce, Reading Religion