People, Place, and Purpose: Churches and Neighbourhood Resilience
Paul Bickley explores the role of churches in building neighbourhood resilience – helping them overcome challenge and disruptive change. (2018)
Theos Think Tank launches a new report on the role of churches in building neighbourhood resilience – helping them overcome challenge and disruptive change.
· New polling indicates overall pessimism about the future after Britain’s departure from the European Union, with Scotland particularly gloomy about several aspects of life in Britain after we leave the EU. Only a third of GB adults say they are optimistic about the prospects of the next generation (34%)
· Nearly half of Scottish adults think there will be less investment in public services after Britain’s departure from the EU (47%), compared to 36% of English respondents
· Across the English regions, the North East is the most negative about the future after Britain’s departure from the European Union, in spite of strong support in the referendum. Think tank calls for churches to help Brexit–proof the North East.
Communities across the country appear increasingly concerned about their future after Brexit, although the English are more positive than respondents in Scotland or Wales.
In England, over a third (35%) of adults thought the British economy will improve after we leave the European Union, while only three in ten (29%) Scottish adults agreed. Only 1 in 10 Scottish voters felt that, “people from different communities in my area will get on better after we leave the EU” (10%), compared to nearly one in five (17%) of English respondents.
Within England, the North East stood out as a particularly negative about the future. Adults in the North East are significantly more likely to agree there will be fewer work opportunities in their region after Brexit compared to other regions (42% agree vs. 29% in England overall). Half (51%) agree there will be less investment in public services, compared to 37% nationally.
Respondents in England were more likely to support a role for churches in helping communities get through difficult times – 44% agreed that they would like to see churches and religious help provide some of the services that local authorities can no longer afford, significantly higher than the proportion of Scottish adults who said the same (37%).
The polling has been published to coincide with the release of new research from think tank Theos which argues churches should focusing on helping communities become more ‘resilient’ overall rather than using all their resources to meet short–term emergency needs. The research also calls for the development of a new ‘Community Wealth Fund’ to upgrade existing infrastructure in vulnerable communities that are likely to suffer the most if the economy struggles after Brexit.
Other recommendations include encouraging churches to move away from simply providing short term ‘charitable’ solutions and asking local councils to encourage community groups by giving them use of better facilities.
Theos, the religion and society think tank, focused the research in Byker, Shildon, and North Ormesby in a project in partnership with the William Leech Research Fellowship – which supports research into Christian social action across the North East. Residents and church members in these communities were a core part of the research.
A comprehensive report, ‘People, Place, and Purpose: Churches and Neighbourhood’ contains a series of recommendations including:
– Churches should move away from ‘give–away’ charitable models, focus on the training and development of local leaders, and collaborate more closely with other community organisations through formal neighbourhood partnerships.
– Local authorities should conduct neighbourhood audits of community facilities, using them to build on and support facilities that are already there, including churches. Public authorities should work harder to make their own facilities available for grassroots community use and churches need to work harder to make churches more suitable for community use.
– To make significant new funds available, a new Community Wealth Fund – similar to sovereign wealth funds – could be established. A Shale Wealth Fund is already being developed to support communities near shale gas extraction sites. The Community Wealth Fund could be funded through multiple sources – the proposed post–Brexit shared prosperity fund, dormant assets, or an endowment.
Report author Paul Bickley said: “Most people are pessimistic – or at least very uncertain – about Britain’s future after our departure from the EU. Some areas – Scotland, London and now the North East – are particularly worried about jobs, investment in public services, and social cohesion.
We think community institutions like churches will play an important role in helping vulnerable communities navigate what might be a bumpy time. Local social action can make a difference between a community being a good place to live and entering into serious decline.
Active churches can really help, but they help most when they focus on long–term challenges rather than simply plugging short term needs.”
Notes for Editors
Paul Bickley is Director of Political Programme at Theos. His background is in Parliament and public affairs, and he holds an MLitt from the University of St Andrews’ School of Divinity.
Theos is the UK’s leading religion and society think tank. It has a broad Christian basis, and exists to enrich the debate about faith and society.
For comment or further details please contact Lizzie Stanley on 07778 160 052 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Methodology: ComRes surveyed 2,031 GB adults between 26th and 28th October 2018. Data were weighted to be representative of all GB adults by age, gender, region and social grade. Base sizes for some sub–regions are small and therefore should be treated as indicative: North East (n=85), Scotland (n=180).
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Theos researches and investigates the intersection of religion, politics and society in the contemporary world.