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Spiritual Progression in Economic Recession? Session 3: Further think pieces

17 March 11

the Centre for Faiths and Public Policy, University of Chester, 17th March 2011

Spirituality and Mental Health

Listen or download the podcast of the address and view the accompanying presentation here.

[Note: Some music has been omitted, for rights reasons]

Peter Gilbert is Emeritus Professor of Social Work and Spirituality at Staffordshire University. He leads a project for the National Spirituality and Mental Health Forum, and spoke about mental and spiritual health in the context of the present economy and state of society. He spoke from both personal and professional experience about the need to treat as inextricably connected all aspects of health; physical, mental and spiritual.

“If, as the Oxford English Dictionary defines spirit, it’s our animating or life-giving force, to run a health service which doesn’t take account of that, that’s insanity.”

Living where the needs are greatest

Listen or download the podcast of the address and view the visual presentation which accompanied here.

Website: www.message.org.uk/tag/eden-network

Anna Thompson is the Eden Network National Development Co-ordinator for the Message Trust. She lives in Openshaw, Greater Manchester, just one locality where members of Eden Network teams have chosen to make their homes in communities in which there are multiple needs. They seek, as Christians, to be engaged in transforming these neighbourhoods, with a special emphasis on young people and their families.

“We’re committed to remain, no matter what happens in our community. We’re committed to seeing it regenerated, in the broadest sense of that word.”

Eden teams base their strategy on an incarnational principle, of becoming one with the communities they care for. Within these neighbourhoods, said Anna Thompson, they could help people find a voice, and discover their significance. This, she said, was even more important than empowerment, as a step in discovering transformation.

Spirituality among urban young people

Listen or download the podcast of the address and view the visual presentation which accompanied here.

Listen to further podcasts on this research project from here.

Giselle Vincett of the University of Edinburgh presented reflections based on the research and findings of a project based in Glasgow and Manchester, which had investigated the spiritual beliefs of young people in neighbourhoods labelled as severely deprived. The team from Edinburgh and Manchester had been funded by the Religion and Society Programme.

“Instability, vulnerability and loss are so common here that young people think of them as normal.”

The project had required careful thought in framing appropriate ways of asking questions which would engage these young people, many of whom had experienced traumatic loss or hardship in some way. It also meant contacting those who were alienated in many ways from both faith-based and other institutions. The predominant though sometimes nominal faith background was Christian or Muslim.

“I think faith and religious rituals and prayer are here less about the restoration of order, and more about managing instability, vulnerability and uncertainty.”

The kind of God they generally believed in was one who could be prayed to and who would intervene to help at hard times. If God didn’t live up to expectations, that would be a reason to talk about losing belief. But the researchers had also looked for expressions of belief in the clothing, scars, stories and rituals of these young people, and their talk of angels and ghosts looking out for them.

Faith in the Regions

Listen or download the podcast of the address here.

John Devine is the Churches’Officer for the North-West. His appointment to that position dated from the faith organisations’ need to be represented as stakeholders at the tier of regional government and society. [Since then, “regional” has been written out of the script by the present government.] Regional Development Agencies had proved hard to relate to from a faith angle. They focused on economic output and wanted statistics, because without measures nothing seemed to exist, and they weren’t interested in the angle on faith which interested local councils, which was usually in the area of equality and ethnicity.

“My attempts … were how we were to identify the faith dividend if there is one. What is the added value that faith brings?”

There was also a divide between faith-based organisations in the voluntary sector, and the worshipping communities, which is where much of the “social capital” lay, even if they did not use that terminology. However, a realistic and appreciative relation had developed under Labour, which was being continued though the Coalition’s rhetoric that, in the face of the facts,faith is now taken seriously following a secular-dominated period. But now there’s no money.

The challenge in the 2000s was how to find funding for what faith bodies can do and deliver with their buildings and people. One demonstration deployed over the last decade [shown in the accompanying slides] was the matching on a map that showed that clusters of worshipping communities in the North-West coincide geographically to a high degree with areas of identified social need. What faiths now need to do is similarly to discover for today what the grain of the Big Society is, and how to frame what they can offer in terms which will be understood.

Report and podcasts compiled by Norman Winter. Recordings of the conference sessions are substantially complete, but may have been edited in small ways for technical and other reasons.

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Associated file:
Anna Thompson Presentation.ppt

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