The questions explored in this thesis are: whether it is possible to have a shared
spirituality between those who work on the urban margins and the people with whom
they work; and what factors might assist such a reciprocal sense of depth exchange?
The focus for the empirical work was on a situation where a group of religious and
lay women are living and working on a peripheral urban housing estate. Although it
was necessary to employ sociological research methods, this is not a sociological case
study, but rather the exploration of lived spirituality within the Christian tradition.
The emerging importance of conversation and dialogue leads to interaction with
Gadamer and Tracy. The work of Rahner, particularly his emphasis on the dynamic
drive towards divine mystery inherent within humanity, proves important, as it
becomes evident that by virtue of their own discovery of the transcendent, the
people of the estate are celebrating grace, but have come to it in and through the
sacrament of their own lives.
It is suggested that this operative fact of grace at work amongst the marginalised
merits further consideration by the church. Here the vital function of a critical
listening faculty is imperative. Indeed, it is suggested that such a developed faculty
has more universal applicability throughout all forms of ministry. The facilitative tool
for such an attuned listening is seen to be the openness to engagement with the
contemplative dimension. Thus there is a re-engagement with the classical spiritual
tradition, which is seen to authenticate the integrated nature of contemplation and
action. Finally, detailed consideration is given to the process of the interior journey
and the qualities engendered along the way vital for a contemporary spiritual
hermeneutic. Here interaction with the work of Merton proves invaluable.
Thus the course of the thesis is an unfolding of a spiritual hermeneutic which, it is
suggested, has ramifications not exclusively on the urban margins, but as a potential
dynamic force within the church at the close of the twentieth century.