Selina Stone, of our researchers, blogs about our exciting new research into community organising in the Pentecostal Church…
Black Pentecostal churches are growing in both social and political significance in the UK. We are pleased to be conducting research into the civic involvement of Black Pentecostal churches through community organising. I’m writing this report alongside Bishop Moses Owusu-Sekyere of the Apostolic Pastoral Congress and CTC’s Director, Canon Dr Angus Ritche.We’re keen to report our findings but also encourage greater participation in community organising as a way of both developing congregations and transforming local communities.
Across the UK, churches are engaging with community organising and as a result, are being equipped to effectively bring about change in their local communities. Whether campaigning for the Living Wage, tackling payday lenders or targeting injustices in the immigration system, churches are making their political voices heard. For some denominations this comes as second nature, from strong theological and doctrinal foundations. However, for other more recent church groups such as Pentecostals, practical ministry can sometimes overtake theological statements.
Pentecostalism was birthed out of community and so the commitment to loving God and neighbour is intrinsic to the identity of its adherents. Pentecostal churches have always been actively involved in Christian education, charitable giving and community development; these factors have been fundamental to its survival. However, there is a need to progress by engaging directly with political issues and awakening what some have referred to as the ‘sleeping giant’ of Black Pentecostalism.
New action begins with new thinking, and this is the purpose of this new CTC report; to equip Black Pentecostal churches with a theological foundation for community organising. We are in the early stages of research which centres on one-to-one conversations with Pentecostal church leaders and some structured interviews. By listening to church leaders, we will ensure that our final report is relevant to their experiences of ministry and the challenges they are facing. Through these conversations we will unearth the stories of transformation that are intrinsic to the history and identity of these congregations.
We are listening to those who are active members of Citizens UK in order to establish what connects their faith with their community organising. We will also engage with those who are not members of Citizens UK but have some interest in social action, to find out what barriers may exist towards the specific work of organising. We will also include those who have no intention of taking on the work of social and political engagement in order to establish how they interpret their Christian identity and ministry.
Our research will consider the distinctive features of Pentecostal theology in order to recognise points of similarity and disparity with community organising. We will be exploring questions such as, ‘what is the role of the Holy Spirit in our community?’ ‘How is the power of God seen in relation to political power?’ ‘How does the church understand itself in relation to its neighbours?’ ‘How do we see prosperity in our community?’
Aside from dealing with the theology and ideas surrounding this theme, case studies will provide real examples of how the implementation of Pentecostal ideas can truly impact communities for the better. We will consider how Pentecostalism encourages a recognition of the sacredness of human life, a commitment to servant leadership and a determination to tackle injustice. For more information please get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org