A call for celebration, vision and justice
The Report from the Commission on Urban Life and Faith
Category: Church Leadership & Resources
The intention of the Commission which compiled this report is to stimulate 'discussion and action among those whose lives are lived out in an urban setting and those to whom is given the responsibility for formulating policies that affect those lives.' (Foreword).
It is offered as a 'work in progress' which is based on three key convictions
It asserts that life itself is sacred, our individual lives are interconnected and our common life should be constructed to enable all people to flourish. This is the wellspring of faithful capital (p.2).
This report is published twenty-one years on from Faith in the City and it identifies some aspects of Continuity and Change in the lives of people in cities. Page 9 has a handy chart of observations about the world then and now. Subsequent chapters look at "The World in Our Cities: Diversity and Difference" - there has been a substantial increase in diversity within our cities within the last twenty years; "Prosperity: In Pursuit of Well-being" - identifies the grave inequalities in health, education, housing and income, the fact that increased wealth does not necessarily mean increased happiness, and expresses concern at the level of depression amongst young people; "Regeneration for People: More than Status, Power and Profit" - notes the rise in gated communities and the exile of the poorest when urban areas are redeveloped; "A Good City: Urban Regeneration with People in Mind" - looks at how regeneration can make cities healthy and happy places to live; "Involved and Committed" - reports on the involvement of faith communities in urban regeneration; "Grounding and Sustaining Faithful Capital" - identifies what the local church has to offer.
It concludes with eleven recommendations, some of which are aimed at the church, others at the government. The church must maintain a presence in urban areas and church leaders should be experienced in urban and contextual theology. The government is challenged to consider a living wage rather than a minimum wage and to tackle the gap between those living in poverty and the very wealthy. It must lead rather than follow public opinion on immigration, refugee and asylum policy, allowing asylum seekers to work to support themselves. Faith groups must combat racism, fascism and religious intolerance. In both faith communities and government new consideration must be given to the informal education of young people. The Church Urban Fund should be continued and finally church leaders should initiate wide ranging debates about what makes a good city.
This is an A4 colour magazine-style publication printed on glossy paper which reflects the light and makes it difficult to read. There are numerous small colour photographs, whose relevance to the adjacent text is not always obvious, and many interesting quotations in coloured boxes. The report also contains several helpful charts and graphs. There are, however, occasional typographic errors, some of which could have been picked up by a spell-checker (e.g., 'Fouth' in the chart on p. 31).
In comparison to Faith in the City this report seems tame and disappointing. Most of the issues are already in the public arena and only one of the recommendations appears to be controversial (on immigration, refugee and asylum policy.) If anything, life in the city has got noticeably worse for the poor and marginalised in the last twenty years and demands for change should be even more strident.
Sue Groom, July 2006
The Revd Sue Groom is the Director of Deanery Licensed Ministry for the Kensington Episcopal Area of London. Before this she was Vicar of St Matthew's, Yiewsley and also served as the Reader Training Officer for the Willesden Episcopal Area. She is the author of Linguistic Analysis of Biblical Hebrew (Paternoster Press, 2003).Order from www.christianbookshops.org | Order from St Andrew's Bookshops
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