Faith and Localism: Bursting onto to the scene like a tortoise winning a race
There has been a fair amount of discussion of ‘spiritual capital’ in the local space, with the recent Christians in Parliament report Faith in the Community and a series of different events taking place regarding the role of faith with local authorities. You could be mistaken for believing that this is a new fad. Of course, this is far from the truth: faith is primarily expressed through local expressions. In fact, as some thinkers look at the full implications of devolution and localism, many point to faith as the only expression of sub-local authority institutions, capable of building community and effecting change.
Charles Oham, writing about spiritual capital in our book Faith With its Sleeves Rolled Up, starts with a look at specific local projects. One swiftly realises that for localism to be at its most successful, it needs to enable people to relate to some sort of a communal parish. That is not a unit of state church administration, but a place of belonging and connectedness. It is this place, in a ‘parish’, which provides a basis for the building of social and spiritual capital.
On the back of the Christians in Parliament report, the Evangelical Alliance is encouraging churches to let their local MP know about their church activity in the constituency. This is in line with a parliamentary debate on the cooperation between local government and faith groups. This may stir some faith groups to get active with the wider community, but the fact remains that there is much which is being done already. Like the tortoise, faith-based social action may not be full of fireworks, but there is much already in place. Much of this activity is available to all to access, whether it may be the meals served by the Gurdwara, or the mother and toddlers group in a local church hall.
However, in these difficult times, there is more honesty of our need in society for community and relationship. More faith groups are stirred to do more in their community; some will take a project off the shelf, some want to respond in a more nuanced way. At FaithAction, we are support a number of groups who are asking the question, ‘What’s ours to do?’. If you too are in this place and want to link into our programme of support, drop me a line at [email protected]