Ritual as Performance

Sharon Jagger and Helen Turner

We have collaborated for some years on practice-based research, using theatre, music and spoken word to engage audiences to co-create meaning and new understandings about the nature of beliefs. The latest iteration of our performances uses transcripts from Sharon’s research with women priests in the Church of England, who examine their bodily relationship with the altar as they enact the Eucharist. 

We have taken these stories and formed them into a performance ritual that seeks to explore the meaning-making energies within religious rituals. The performance takes elements of the Eucharist ritual and places them within a female/feminine paradigm to enable participants to re-imagine access to the divine. The ritual attempts to challenge the immanent/transcendent binary by exploring what meaning is generated by the female body at the altar.

Stories from participants have opened up a dialogue about who owns the discourse around ‘grace’ and what ontologies exist in religious ritual. We ask whether boundaries are constructed by church rituals and whether in turn these create a struggle over what we mean by ‘grace’ and belonging.