“All human beings exist and act in situations and engage in interpretations of situations. This interpretive dimension of human existence does not cease with faith and with life in the community of faith. On the contrary, faith and the world of faith shape the perspective, the ‘taken-for-granted stock of knowledge,’ the weighting of what is important, all of which effect the interpretation of situations. In other words interpreting situations from the viewpoint and in the context of faith does create a special hermeneutic task, differentiable from other hermeneutic or interpretive dimensions of theology. This is the reason why interpreting situations can and should be part of a deliberate and self-conscious educational undertaking, part of the church’s lay and clergy education. It can be part of an educational undertaking, part of the church’s lay and clergy education. It can be part of an educational undertaking only because it is an identifiable hermeneutics." (“Interpreting Situations: An Inquiry into the Nature of Practical Theology," 119)
“A situation is the way various items, powers, and events in the environment gather together so as to require responses from participants. In this sense, any living, perhaps any actual, entity exists in situations. Situations like reality itself are never static. Living beings, we might say, live in their environments (contexts) in continuing responses to ever-changing, ever-forming situations." (“Interpreting Situations: An Inquiry into the Nature of Practical Theology," 119)
“Hence, local and brief situations can occur within broader and more enduring situations. Participants in situations need not be simply individuals. Groups, communities, collectives, societies all exist in situations. Hence, it is equally proper to explore the situation of a congregation, a denomination, or the church universal." (“Interpreting Situations: An Inquiry into the Nature of Practical Theology," 120.)
“The first task interpreting a situation faces is simply identifying the situation and describing its distinctive and constituent features…… In other words the components (powers, events, causalities) of a situation are not simply there on the surface. Discerning these components is a difficult task for a second reason. The ‘components’ of a situation are not simply discrete items. A situation is not like a basket of fruit, so that discerning the situation is merely enumerating what fruits occupy the basket. The components of a situation are always different kinds of things, things of very different genre; human beings as individuals, world views, groups of various sorts, the pressure of the past, futurity, various strata of language (writing, imagery, metaphors, myths, etc.), events, sedimented social power. And we could go on an on. ‘Reading a situation’ is the task of identifying there genres of things and discerning how they together constitute the situation.
A second task in the interpretation of situations has to do with the situation’s past. Since situations are what occurs in the present, the importance of probing the past of that present may not be self-evident. Human, historical situations do not present to us the whole past." (“Interpreting Situations: An Inquiry into the Nature of Practical Theology," 120.)
“A fourth aspect….In the fourth task the theological element becomes central…… what a situation is, a gathering together of powers and occurrences in the environment so as to evoke responses from the participants. A situation is something we have no choice but to respond to in some way. A situation is not, then, a neutral series of objects, something to be noted. It is a concentration of powers which impinge upon us as individual agents or as communities. The situation thus places certain demands on us. ….." (“Interpreting Situations: An Inquiry into the Nature of Practical Theology," 121.)
Woodward, James, and Stephen Pattison, eds., The Blackwell Reader in Pastoral and Practical Theology. (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1999).