A project looking at faith in ‘edgy’ and marginal places, and how that faith develops, changes and grows – from the University of Roehampton, in collaboration with St Peter’s Saltley Trust, the Susanna Wesley Foundation, and the Church Mission Society.

Here, Roehampton project team Clare Watkins and James Butler explain more:

What are you looking for?

We are looking to work with six Christian led groups in the West Midlands, which would consider themselves in some way marginalised or ‘edgy’, to reflect on the place of faith within the group and how faith grows, changes and develops.  We are looking for groups which feel that this would be a good time for them to reflect, review, explore and discern what they are doing and where they are heading.  We will work together with each group to plan, design and carry out a mini reflection project together.  At the heart of each mini-project will be the questions, passions and challenges of the group around their own practice, work and faith.  Our experience has been that groups who have worked with us have found this a valuable opportunity to reflect and review, and have found that journey and reflections affirm what they do, open up new possibilities for them, help to them to focus on their priorities and open up different and helpful ways to engage in their work.

Why are you doing this?

From the perspective of the team at Roehampton, at the heart of this project is a desire to learn about the place of faith within Christian led groups (churches, organisations, communities etc.) which experience marginality, perhaps in a number of ways.  These might be the edges of the organised church, the edges socio-economically, racially or any of the many forms of marginality experienced in society.   A previous project looked at the grassroots experience of learning and how people grow, change and develop in faith in the Methodist Church in Britain.  One of the key findings was that the most significant ‘faith learning’ took place in the informal spaces, those peripheral to what is often considered the focus of learning –the Bible Study, the sermon, the course etc.  Those informal spaces were the chats over coffee, the dog walk, the chance meeting; the kinds of encounters which happen in everyday life, living alongside others.  This project is a more intentional turn to those edgy places to ask about the place of faith and how that faith grows, changes and develops. This interest in faith and how it grows, develops and changes is also a key concern of St Peter’s Saltley Trust, which also has a special interest in the ‘margins’ of church and society’.

Why the West Midlands?

The project is funded by the Susanna Wesley Foundation and St Peter’s Saltley Trust.  For this reason, we are focusing on the West Midlands region, which is St Peter’s Saltley Trust’s charitable region of benefit.  One funder is Methodist, the other is Church of England and both have broader ecumenical scope, giving this project an ecumenical outlook. We are keen to work with groups across the spectrum of denominations and Christian faith.

How does it work in practice?

Our approach is collaborative, seeking to work with local groups, initiatives or organisations to develop a mini project which we carry out together.  This means the most crucial part of finding groups to work with is that they feel it would be beneficial for them to put time into listening and reflecting about who they are and what they do.  This might be because they are asking questions about what is next, want to evaluate what they have done, have challenging decisions ahead, are navigating something complicated they want to reflect on as they do it or perhaps are just ready to pause and listen and see what is happening. The mini project will be directed by the group’s questions, interests, challenges and joys.

If you have further questions or you would like further information on any of this then do please get in touch with James Butler.

Image credit: Remy Penet (unsplash.com, free to share and use)