An Exploration of Religious Practice as a Valued Occupation
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Background: Religion touches our everyday lives. Some have a deeply held faith while others engage infrequently in rites of passage such as marriage or funerals, but religion is a common worldwide phenomenon. Globally, millions of people engage in religious practice or religious ‘doing’ daily, but occupational science has not explored this common occupation widely, and occupational therapists continue to struggle to consider religious practice within the occupational needs of their clients. Within increasingly multi-cultural and multi-faith communities, it is imperative that the occupation of religious practice is better understood and considered within practice. Method: An auto/biographical overarching research orientation is used to encompass a reflexive awareness of my own experiences as a Christian. And I take an occupational science perspective to explore religious ‘doing’. This is achieved by the use of a facet orientation to construct three studies which explore different aspects of religious practice. A systematic scoping review of literature examined the current understanding of religious practice. A photovoice study examined the lived experience of religious practice from a variety of faith perspectives and auto/biography was used to explore barriers to participation in religious practice. Findings: Religious practice continues to be perceived as a difficult area by occupational therapists however, familiar occupational features such as routine, interpretation of rules, symbols, connectedness, and contemplation, exist across faith traditions. Participation in religious practice involves a complex relationship between community and place, religious coping strategies and religious identity. Conclusion: This thesis offers an original occupational science contribution concerning religious practice as a valued occupation. It offers a UK based, multi-faith perspective, in an area dominated by North American, Judeo/Christian literature. Most importantly, it shines a light on common everyday religious ‘doing’ which is as much a valued occupation as any other everyday activity. This thesis positions religious practice as an everyday occupation that occupational therapists can, and should, address using existing skills.
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