In Practical Theology we study ecclesiastical practice in a wide sense, both past and present. We identify different types of practices that are characteristic of the Church – forms of worship, preaching, hymn singing, catechesis, diakonia, community structures, canon law – and study them separately. Or we look at church life in a particular time and context from an overarching perspective such as ecclesiology, pastoral theology or spirituali
Practical Theology then …
Practical Theology has deep roots. Already in the period of the Early Church, treatises were written about prayer and worship, preaching, church order and church leadership. A more systematic reflection on these topics evolved in the High Middle Ages, in conjunction with a bid for greater pastoral efficiency. However, the university discipline of Practical Theology was born in the early nineteenth century. It was then made an integral part of theological study with the purpose of preparing future ministers for their task by teaching them the history and principles of pastoral practice. In the course of the twentieth century, the empirical study of current practice became increasingly important, with clinical pastoral psychology and the sociology of religion as new approaches. In recent decades, questions about the role and activites of churches in modern secularized societies have been at the centre of attention.
… and now
Practical theological research in Sweden has traditionally targeted the national Church of Sweden (Lutheran), with special emphasis on its historical forms and activites. In these areas we have a strong scholarly heritage worth cultivating. At the same time it is obvious that studies of current church life, regardless of denomination or confession, have become the dominant concern. In a period when demography and social structures are in a state of flux, the conditions for church life change rapidly. The relations between churches and the state and among the churches themselves shift. Individual churches undergo unsettling transformations. At such a juncture it is important to have a university subject that analyses what happens and how it affects the churches – a subject that also discusses, critically and constructively, the methods and goals of pastoral practices in relation to their inherited forms and the new challenges that confront them.
Recently defended dissertations...
Our doctoral students have great freedom in choosing a topic for their dissertations, as current and recently completed projects amply demonstrate. The most recently defended dissertation in Practical Theology (2014) treated Greek Orthodox ecclesiastical jurisprudence around the year 1800. The current professor has also supervised dissertations in adjacent areas: on the ecclesiological status of the worship community in the Swedish folk church (2015, Systematic Theology) and on the rise and early history of medieval Danish cathedral chapters (2016, Church History).
...and ongoing research
There are several ongoing research projects. Prof. Stephan Borgehammar works on editions of homiletic and hagiographical sources, coordinates a project of documenting the building history of the former monastery church of Dalby, is editor of the yearbook Svenskt Gudstjänstliv and member of the editorial boards of the electronic handbook Medieval Nordic Literature in Latin and the journals Medieval Sermon Studies and Svensk Teologisk Kvartalskrift