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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

On-line version ISSN 2224-7912
Print version ISSN 0041-4751


OBERHOLZER, Gerhard. South African immigration to Australia: an interdisciplinary narrative study. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2011, vol.51, n.3, pp.304-318. ISSN 2224-7912.

In this study narratives of immigrants are presented from a spiritual and psychological perspective. The local context is described as the faith community of the Mansfield Christian Reformed Church in Brisbane, Australia. The development of servant leadership is an integral part of the culture of the congregation. The congregation of Mansfield focuses on the needs of immigrants and they see themselves as a migrant-friendly church. The narratives of two South African born immigrants were listened to, whofind themselves in the context of the Mansfield Christian Reformed Church. The research approach in this studyflows from an epistemology based on a narrative theory. The postfoundational approach incorporates the social context of immigrants as part of the process in exploring a deeper meaning of the stories told by co-researchers (immigrants). Within this framework of postfoundational practical theology, the praxis is therefore the starting point of research. This consists of local knowledge, described and interpreted by the co-researchers and informed by traditions of interpretation. The experiences of co-researchers are interpreted on a second level with the appointment of four interdisciplinary respondents. The respondents take part in an interdisciplinary conversation and they each contribute from theirfield of experience in psychology and theology. This is done by using transversal rationality and the in-context experiences are thickened through interdisciplinary investigation. Furthermore, a study of relevant literature is introduced and added to the conversation. The research process is therefore developed from a postfoundational theological positioning with the aim of describing immigration narratives and interpreting these narratives in order to facilitate a deeper knowledge and insight into the immigration process. The in-context experiences of immigrants serve as the primary narrative and their interpretations of experiences will be studied. The interpretations of the co-researchers are used as discussion points in follow up conversations and their narratives are therefore allowed into a process of growth. Their language which points to their experience, as well as their language used in the process of immigration, is listened to. Servant leadership is discussed as a vital part of immigration for believers. The stories of the co-researchers reveal servant leadership in different forms as part of the culture of the congregation in Mansfield. The narratives show the co-researchers becoming part of the ministry of servant leadership in a migration-friendly congregation. Co-researchers experience the influence of servant leadership in their lives and tell stories of how the needs of immigrants are met by the servant leaders in the congregation of the Mansfield Christian Reformed Church. The conclusion of this study at the end of the research process, points to some suggestions and alternative interpretations regarding immigration and globalisation beyond the local context. The outcome of the study shows servant leadership as an important part of immigration and globalisation. The intentional focus is on how a culture of servant hood will benefit an immigrationfriendly congregation. The subsequent proposal is to engage other congregations and churches, both in South Africa and Australia, in a conversation on the effect of implementing servant leadership within the context of immigration and globalisation.

Keywords : servant leadership; narrative research; postfoundationalism; practical theology; interdisciplinary study; epistemology; co-researchers; respondents; transversal rationality; faith community; globalisation.

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