In this section I will describe the different steps I took in my research and provide them with a rationale.

Within the discipline of practical theology there is not much attention to human animal relationships. It is quite common for practical theologians to insist that “the practice is the theology and the theology is the practice” (Slee, p?) Yet when it comes to animals, there is little reflection on existing practices and relationships, and the kind of theology that comes out of them.

Whatever the reason may be for this lack of engagement (more about that here), in this thesis I want to take an existing human-bat relationship in a church building in Groningen as my starting point. My thesis is an attempt at following the lines that came out of it, document the places where it led me.

Based on the idea that thought is always thought in process, situated in a place and time, my reflections will have somewhat of a fluid shape. Perhaps  academic theological modes of writing have kept theologians from including animals in their writing. The authors that I will follow as guides in this multispecies endeavor - Donna Haraway, Deborah Bird Rose and Tom Van Dooren - all do have rather peculiar ways of writing in order to do justice to the entanglements they are caught up in.

My research has taken the following shapes: reading, observing, events, making (art, liturgy). All simultaneously, mutually infusing each other.

A big chunk of my time I have been reading literature. I have focused on two different fields of writing. First, I have been searching for theological literature that can help me in looking at the Nieuwe Kerk in Groningen as a multispecies community. This search was not very successful. I’ve come across theological literature about animals and will discuss this literature later on, to show why it didn’t help me further. Secondly, I read literature from the so called ‘environmental humanities’. This did help me in thinking through multispecies relationships, but wasn’t necessarily of a theological nature. In this thesis I attempt to read this work in such a way that it becomes more theological.

Next to reading, my research consisted of observing. I spent time with a bat caretaker and the bats she takes care of. I conducted interviews, with her, with bat advocates and with a bat researcher. I consider them specialists with specific types of knowledges when it comes to bats. Anja Sjoerdsma, for example, has taken care of thousands of bats over the last 20 years.

Two events were part of my research: together with Anja Sjoerdsma I organized a walk around the Nieuwe Kerk in Groningen in which we listened to the bats in the neighborhood. Together with one of the ministers of the Nieuwe Kerk I organized a church service after which I introduced and exhibited my Augmented Reality installation.
Making is the fourth element of my research: the making of an artwork and the writing of this thesis.