With apologies to GBS. And I've probably only got it until it all slips away again later on today! 'It' being an insight into just what it is I think I'm wanting to research...
OK, so here goes...
I am undertaking an exercise in Practical Theology, which is a wide-ranging and diverse discipline.
Within that discipline, I am undertaking an exercise in the field of Congregational Studies, an area which is also multi-faceted and complex. One essential ingredient of, or motivation for, all Congregational Studies seems to be the issue of 'change' whether internal or external, chosen or imposed.
If I accept the typology of Guest, Tusting and Woodhouse, which is far better than anything I could come up with in the time available, I am working mainly in the area of Church Health - enabling churches to handle change more effectively/successfully, which is a form of 'Extrinsic Congregational Studies,' i.e. one that seeks to identify general principles that are broadly applicable rather than something specific only to one congregation.
I am looking to introduce historical resources (Church History as conventional 'umbrella' field in theology) as a tool to aid reflection.
In order to do this, I need to gain an understanding of the hisotorical task and how it has developed and changed over time, spefically learning from contemporary historiographers.
This is turn raises questions about what kinds of historical resources might be more or less helpful to the process, and how suited those which are available may be. For example, many people access their history only by secondary rather than primary sources, which adds layers of interpretation of which they may be unaware.
Further, my focus is on English Baptists, and so is in some senses a more 'Intrinsic' approach in so far as what is deduced is of value even if it speaks only within a Baptist context. If there was a spectrum from 'Extrinsic' to 'Intrinsic' I guess it would be somewhere around the middle.
Within the 'Intrinsic Congregational Studies' sub-division the work of such people as Hopewell or Becker resonates with some of the work on historiography and helps secure the otherwise tenuous link.
What will hopefully emerge at the end of all this is a greater understanding of 'how a knowledge of the past can inform our present and shape our future.' This will, of itself, raise lots of questions, e.g. the 'authority' of non-canonical historical resources (be that Biblical or Baptist canons!); the writing of 'God' into or out of history; the local/universal nature of what is found, etc. etc. Overall, I think it's likely that it may help to address an apparent gap in much practical theology which is very much 'of this moment' or at least in relation to the very recent past.
By this time tomorrow, I will probably have lost it again, but for now, I think I can see a glimmer of a 20 minute presentation emerging from this waffle - and if I can't I'm sunk!