The project has now been running for almost a year. We have completed the vast majority of our data gathering, and are now analysing the material to prepare the Commission write-up.
* Theos researchers have consulted 353 participants across 282 interviews, and completed 19 observations. That equates to a rate of more than one participant every day since the project began!
* Research teams have visited Bolton, Bury, Bradford, Middlesbrough, Derby, Peterborough, East Lindsey, Solihull, Thanet, Plymouth, Cornwall, Newham, Haringey and Croydon.
* In partnership with the Cadbury Centre, the Free Churches Group and Theos have started a series of roundtable events which have brought expert voices into conversation with the emerging themes of the project.
* We have also interviewed a selection of experts in this field as participants in their own right, from academia, policy, and frontline delivery.
We have seen inspiring work happening across the country, demonstrating the power of positive partnership and the incredible potential of the church in every place we have visited. We have noted the unique assets that local churches can bring to their neighbourhoods – whether that is their buildings, strong leadership, the convening power to bring community voices together, the ability to mobilise volunteers, or (perhaps most importantly of all) a strong vision for the well-being of their communities.
The strength of this contribution also means that local churches are often on the frontline of service delivery – although this can sometimes bring tensions with local authorities, as churches risk going from ‘serving’ to becoming ‘service-providers’. This relationship worked most fruitfully when both parties understood the priorities and unique language of the other.
We are also excited that Theos and the Free Churches Group have been selected to deliver the British Academy’s Companion Review on “The Place of Faith & Belief in Social Cohesion”, as part of its Cohesive Societies series. Existing work in the series can be found here. This means that the FCG Commission itself will now be released in Summer 2020, later than originally scheduled. We look forward to expanding the reach of our investigation into a greater consideration of existing policy in this area, and applying what we find to the conclusions of the FCG Commission.