December 10, 2018

Current Fellows

Dr Ruth Perrin:  How Faith Changes; Exploring the Experiences of Young Adults in North East England

It is well documented that young adults are a small demographic group within the UK church and that there are many social, economic, emotional and spiritual challenges for the generation known as Gen Y or Millennials. It is also widely recognised that the twenties are a period of identity formation and ‘meaning making’ which includes a consolidation or reformation of the religious beliefs of childhood and youth.  This research project explores how young adults within the region, who had a faith at 20, have experienced the subsequent decade, and how that has effected their beliefs.

Almost 50 young adults aged 29-37 have been interviewed about their experiences of life, church and faith during their twenties. Participants have been recruited from a variety of churches (and snowball sampling used for those who no longer have a faith or are de-churched). Approximately a third are from Newcastle, a third from the Tees Valley and a third from Northumberland in order to provide a picture of experiences from across the region.

A book detailing the findings is due to published by SCM Press. This will provide into patterns within young adult experience and to consider the ways in which those shape Christian beliefs.

Chris Beales: Building New Communities in North-East England: Challenging Church and Society

Across the North East England, large numbers of new homes are being built. My research identifies significant new housing developments being built or planned in each of the 12 local authority areas across the region. The challenge for us all is how to “build good community” and my aim has been to lay the foundations for new strategic thinking and action by Churches and others, working with landowners, builders, planners, communities and all involved.

After a brief summary of the current housing situation across the country and in North East England – and the huge challenges facing Church and society – I survey the history of housing and communities in the region since the first half of the nineteenth century and then look, in particular, at some significant developments since the Second World War. In exploring present and future trends and requirements, I describe offsite construction and modular housing initiatives and also some innovative ideas to address housing need. I explore at some length what this all means for the Churches and for effective Christian engagement, before concluding: “If ‘Christian Hope’ is to have real meaning and substance in relation to housing and community – and especially new housing developments – it must be rooted, earthed, realised, incarnated in practical, purposeful action. The time has come to put community development (in all its meanings) at the heart of Christian life and witness.”

Two workshops have been held so far, in Newcastle and Darlington, on the theme of A House or a Home? – and these are summarised in my report (available here).

Matt Wilson: Common Wealth – could Giving Circles energise churches in supporting their communities financially?

Matt’s area of study is Money, and our relationship to it as Christian communities. Two parallel strands of work are involved…

Strand A) Theology: I will be looking at the story that the Bible (especially the New Testament) is telling in relation to money – and how this contrasts with the story the world tells us. This will involve considering visions of abundance vs scarcity, and looking at biblical patterns of giving and sharing, such as the early church in Jerusalem, which maintained a commitment to hold resources ‘in common’ so that ‘there was no needy person among them’ (Acts 4:34) .

Strand B) Praxis: I will be looking at emerging practices of ‘financial discipleship’ that the contemporary Christian community can be involved in, ways of giving and sharing that are consistent with the biblical narrative. In particular I am looking at the possibilities afforded by the relatively new global phenomenon of ‘Giving Circles’ – groups of people who pool their giving to achieve greater impact. This will include understanding the ethos and structure of various Giving Circle models, as well as their impact – upon the group members themselves, and also upon the communities and causes that benefit from their generosity.

A group of North East clergy from a range of Christian traditions will be involved in the research, periodically offering feedback and challenge in order to ensure that the final publication will be of maximum benefit to local churches and local communities.

‘Image of God’ or ‘human resource’? Work and personhood in the vocational sector in North East England.

Dr Nick Megoran:  ‘Image of God’ or ‘human resource’? Work and personhood in the vocational sector in North East England

Nick’s William Leech Research Fellowship investigates how Human Resource Management conceptualises and treats ‘the human’ in the public and vocational sectors in the North East of England. It asks how we can create more life-enhancing and humane workplaces.

We may take for granted the existence of an ‘HR’ department, but Human Resource Management (HRM) was a controversial idea that rose to prominence only in the 1980s. Its goal was to align work practices with strategic goals set by managers, through the creation of a more compliant workforce. Although specific practical and ethical aspects of HRM have come under increasing scrutiny, we still lack an understanding of how fundamental questions of what it means to be human are crucial to these debates about HRM and how staff can feel valued and work meaningfully in an organisation.

‘Human resource’ is an ambiguous term, implying either a positive image of the employee as a valuable resource, or their instrumentalization and thus dehumanisation. In this research, the idea of humans as a ‘resource’ is brought into conversation with the Biblical contention that humans are created imago Dei, in the image of God. This research develops the ethical implications of imago Dei in the workplace by drawing on the African-American theological tradition as articulated and deployed politically by William Douglass and Martin Luther King, which emphasises dignity and its political implications (Wills,2009).

Nick is investigating churches, secondary schools, and higher education. He is analysing HRM documents and practices, interviewing managers, and conducting visual career timeline interviews with employees.

This is an important topic generally, but it matters particularly for the North East, because we are more dependent on public sector employment that any other region in England. 20.2% of employees in our region work in the public sector: the figure for London is 14.5%.