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People, Place, and Purpose: Churches and Neighbourhood Resilience

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)

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We are living through a period of profound political, social and economic disruption.

Britain’s intended departure from the European Union creates new risks, uncertainties and – no doubt – opportunities. The ability of the cash–starved public services to help people navigate challenging circumstances is now questioned in a way that it has not been for 30 years. As civil society attempts to ‘plug the gap’, churches and faith–based organisations have achieved a new public legitimacy.

How can churches act in a ways that don’t just meet people’s immediate needs, but also build their capacity to negotiate uncertain times? Can they help neighbourhoods become more resilient?

Based on intensive research in three vulnerable communities in the North East of England, this report highlights the importance of engaging people in common action, curating places of public gathering, and refusing stories of decline and degeneration. In other words, churches can help build resilience neighbourhoods by focusing on people, place and purpose.

To accompany the launch of this report, Theos commissioned ComRes to conduct polling intended to gauge optimism and pessimism in the run–up to Britain’s departure from the European Union and to understand public perceptions of the church’s public and social role. The full data table can be found here

The report is the result of the William Leech Research Fellowship, and explores the role churches play in supporting neighbourhood resilience and helping communities respond to change, uncertainty and unpredictability.



 Image from pauljrobinson available under a ShutterStock Licence

Paul Bickley

Paul Bickley

Paul is Head of Political Engagement at Theos. His background is in Parliament and public affairs, and he holds an MLitt from the University of St Andrews’ School of Divinity.

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