The Centre has planned a variety of events activities for Advent 2012: a Quiet Afternoon on Mary: Prayer and Action (speakers ranging from a Pentecostal pastor in Newham to an Assumptionist priest in Bethnal Green); the second of our bi-monthly Community Bible Studies (on the theme of ‘Encounters’) and a debate on the religious foundations of morality at the London School of Economics. Our Advent programme ends with Earthly and Heavenly – an evening of music and reflections on the Christmas story which will be held at the Royal Foundation of St Katharine.
The Centre is working with the Church Urban Fund to develop a ‘Community Conversations’ programme – equipping churches to engage their neighbours in discussion and action on economic justice. David Barclay is available to help churches host such events (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can find out more here – where you can download the Centre’s resource pack on the financial crisis, along with a range of papers and media articles by staff and Fellows.
CTC is also engaged in a partnership with the University of Notre Dame, which is generating both academic research and resources for local use. It is focussed on the way Christians, Muslims and secular people negotiate and promote a ‘common good’. The first fruits of the partnership are already online: including blog posts on the impact of community organising on the Olympics and a new booklet on Muslim engagement in community organising. In the next month, we will be publishing a report for Theos (the public theology think tank) on the religious foundations of morality, and its implications for the use of religious reasoning in public life. CTC researchers are also preparing research papers on Christian, Muslim and secular motivations for community organising – and a second, more practice-focused report for Theos.
News: Justin Welby endorses Living Wage; Latest Near Neighbours Grants; Tax Justice Campaign
As well as weekly posts on the forthcoming Sunday’s Gospel readings (with prayer intentions for the work of the Centre and its partners), our new blog includes a range of stories and resources – including news of Near Neighbours (Eastern London), and projects which have received funding from its Small Grants Fund to build relationships between neighbours of different faiths and cultures.
Other recent stories on the CTC blog include our work with Christian Aid’s tax justice campaign; a report on ‘Highway Neighbours’ (a project of local parishes in Shadwell and Wapping in response to the Olympics), and news of the Bishop Justin Welby’s strong endorsement of the Living Wage Campaign. We’ll be posting again shortly on an exciting new piece of work in Newham with our local Pentecostal and Roman Catholic partner churches, helping young people in the area to tackle gang violence.
Drawing the strands together
What draws these diverse strands of activity together? The Contextual Theology Centre exists to equip churches to engage with their communities. From the street-by-street interactions encouraged by Near Neighbours, to the way we are engaging churches in community organising; from the very local work of The Shoreditch Group to the sharing of good practice of the Presence and Engagement Network; from the development of the ‘Jellicoe Community’ (of young Christians committed to prayer and social transformation) to our growing range of research partnerships, CTC’s activities are united by their concern for helping local churches to engage prayerfully, faithfully and effectively with their neighbourhoods.