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‘Faith’ Beyond the Congregation? is a pilot project investigating the ‘faith’ of people not attached to church congregations who get involved in church-based initiatives. What do they believe and value and what difference does it make to their lives?
In the context of the current emphasis in the British churches on discipleship and church growth, this pilot project is interested in a related but largely unexplored area of faith and discipleship, namely the faith that emerges or develops, or is already present, in people who are exposed to Christians or Christian initiatives. This is not people who occasionally go to church, or who are part of non-traditional Christian gatherings and emerging expressions, or who have now left the church, but people whose primary contact with the church is through church-based initiatives that in some way seek to serve their local communities.
‘Faith’ is our shorthand for whatever people believe in, trust, or hope for themselves and the world, and which make a difference to the way they live. Faith can mean different things to different people and not everyone uses the term in the same way. We use the word faith in our research question in quotation marks (‘faith’) to be open to multiple understanding of people’s orientation to self-transcendence.
As a pilot project, we are testing out the viability of researching the faith of people beyond the congregation. We are using a qualitative approach, interviewing people involved in church-based initiatives who are not otherwise involved in churches. We seek to find out:
- Will our method in general and our questions in particular be accessible and welcomed by participants? The pilot is a learning exercise in how to invite and have these conversations in ways that enable participants to talk about faith in whatever ways they wish.
- Will the research give us understanding of the faith lives of people not involved in congregational church life and, if so, how will this speak to Christian theological understanding and practice?
The project is funded by St Peter’s Saltley Trust and The Queen’s Foundation, and will be completed in 2019/20.
The research team are: