I’m studying Church of England (C-of-E) churches responses to need. The C-of-E is unusual, on the one-hand present across England in ‘every community’, active in neighbourhoods, managing volunteers, delivering projects and services. Its stated mission even includes to transform unjust structures of society. On the other-hand, it has a unique place at the heart of UK legislature, its bishops in the House of Lords. The C-of-E is distinctive!
After years of working with churches in disadvantaged communities (ongoing community work on housing estates, or with Church Urban Fund and more recently with Church Action on Poverty and St Martin in the Fields), I want to learn more about the response of C-of-E churches to need. I’m looking at a context of social change – we could talk about ‘deficit reduction‘ or more broadly, austerity – cuts to public services and increased need. What are C-of-E churches doing and how do they do it?
To help understand the responses of C-of-E churches to need, I’m using a theoretical framework developed by sociologist David Howe*. Howe building on original work by Burrell and Morgan (1979) wrote about four ‘types’ of intervention or responses to need used by social workers. I found his model a useful reference point. Here are Howe’s four types:
- Fixers help individuals in need adapt to a changing context and envionment. Fixers use their experience and knowledge to help a person get back on track, dealing with complex issues. Examples include: Food bank, winter night shelter and money advice services.
- Seekers after Meaning focus on understanding the perspective and experience of the person in need. This about using individual client centred approaches. Examples include: Counselling support, debt counselling and listening projects.
- Raisers of Consciousness tackle wider inequality in society. Here individuals confront their own complex issues gaining control of their life. This approach recognises society must change. Examples include Asset Based Community Development, Community Organising and Poverty & Truth commissions.
- Revolutionaries work to shift society, via a radical and political critique. Here, collective anger might lead to collegiate responses, campaigning and political engagement. Examples include direct action, protest, campaigns and lobbying.
Howe had his critics, however, I think his model is useful in framing responses to need.
Which ‘type’ best fits your churches response to need? More than one type maybe? Which is the dominant type? Where do you place your church activity on the doodle below? (Click on the doodle for a bigger view.)
My research is developing case studies focusing on four C-of-E churches, one for each of those four types. So, each church responds to need differently, and in varied contexts. It’s not a comparative study or looking to evaluate activity – I want to understand how churches do what they do. I will spend between 5 to 10 weeks with each, helping out with activity as a participant and interviewing some of those involved. Can you help?
If you are interested and want to learn more about this study and how to participate in the research, please be in touch (contact details on the illustration above). We can then go from there.
My study is independent, not commissioned by any organisation and has ethical approval by Goldsmiths University of London. All information provided by participants is confidential.
I’ll use this space to post updates and insights about the research.
Howe, D. (2008) “An Introduction to Social Work Theory”, Oxford: Routledge
Burrell, G; Morgan, G. (1979). “Sociological Paradigms and Organisational Analysis: Elements of the Sociology of Corporate Life”. London: Heinemann