Learning from changes in religious leadership: a study of informal and incidental learning at the parish level
Adults learn continuously from the complex interplay of experiences in their day to day work. This article reports on research conducted in four Roman Catholic, rural parishes which experienced a significant shift in leadership from male clerics to female lay pastors. The researcher used participant observation and interviews with 20 parishioners to examine the informal and incidental learning in the parishes, as well as the conditions that supported or delimited this learning. Learning themes include developing understandings of the Eucharist, of church and of leadership. Barriers to learning included priest interventions, history of parish leadership and educational levels of parishioners. Aspects of informal and incidental learning theory (Watkins and Marsick 1992) are used to examine the informal learning that occurred. The author points out adult learning implications (changing theology, continuous learning possibilities) and urges churches to examine informal learning more closely.