We understand the discipline of Practical Theology as the scientific study of religion as it is practiced in everyday life, first with the aim of observing and describing its individual and collective manifestations in the context of the current political and cultural situation, then critically interpreting it with respect to its functions and impacts, and finally considering possible constructive changes. Students will develop their ability to perceive how religion is practiced and take a critical-constructive approach to dealing with the phenomenon.
Within this overall framework, individual sub-disciplines can be identified:
In Spiritual Counseling, students learn to sensitively and empathically understand the relationship between a client, his/her living context (home, hospital, nursing home, etc.) and the counselor, discuss the topics that come up and their emotional importance, and appropriately address any possible religious dimension with the help of methods based in communicative theory, conversational techniques and selected psychotherapeutic approaches, as well as introduce religious symbolism and rituals on a case-by-case basis. The foundational Spiritual Counselling courses teach the basics of leading conversations and forming counselor-client relationships, while the advanced courses enable students to consciously take on their professional role as spiritual counselor and explore existing methodological opportunities (and limits) with growing confidence.
Jewish Religious Pedagogy takes a multiperspectival and intersectional approach to investigate religious education in theory and practice and make it useful for students’ later activities. The investigation centers around questions of curricular and extracurricular (e.g. congregational) religious instruction and takes into account the learning needs of different age groups on the path of life-long learning. The discipline primarily engages with the creation and development of a Jewish school system in Germany and Jewish religious instruction in public schools. Content such as religious instruction, religious didactics and various teaching methods will be analyzed and discussed, with the goal of developing a contemporary Jewish religious pedagogy and enriching instructional practices.
Homiletics, the study of sermons, deals with the structured transmission of religious content and guides students to create their own sermons in a communicative and responsible way in the context of the liturgy, religious instruction and spiritual counseling, incorporating modern biblical science, rabbinical exegesis and Jewish theology and philosophy. Additionally, Homiletics develops criteria for sermon analysis. Homiletics looks beyond the sermon to include also pastoral activities as communicative events. Considering these principles and the principles of reception aesthetics (cf. e.g. Umberto Eco), sermons will be created, practiced and analyzed. The liturgical differences between the Jewish denominations will be examined, as will modern religious-sociological understandings, to address the daily reality and questions of various people and social groups through Sabbath and holiday sermons. Religiosity is currently undergoing rapid transformation. People are no longer seeking religious advice only for special occasions—traditional ‘rites of passage’ like births, coming of age, weddings and funerals—through rituals and meaningful words. New and less conventional occasions increasingly challenge congregations. Homiletics is thus also concerned with sermons for other events that are of special importance over the course of a person’s life.
Practical Theology also includes the disciplines of Liturgy and Halakha:
Practical Theology is essentially a contribution of the Abraham Geiger Kolleg to the curriculum of the School of Jewish Theology.
Special thanks go to the Stiftung Schwarz-Schütte Potsdam for its generous support.