Thursday, August 09, 2007

Creation in the midst of desolation

I'm posting some new links tonight, representing the outcome of discussions and bits and pieces of work I've done in recent weeks. These relate to the CDF funded research project, for which we now have a small team of University Research workers in place, preparing for the fieldwork to be done between September and December. In order to publicise what we're doing, I've created two simple website, a blog that chronicles the stages of project development, and another blog that will be the collecting point for stories and raw case study material to feed in to the researchers.

Working with Roy, who is managing the project on behalf of the Steering Group, is proving very stimulating because he sees many more angles than I do of the whole picture, and at the same time is as keen to prosecute the cause of getting the contribution of all religious communities to civil society taken much more seriously than it is locally.

Between our efforts and those of the Gweini research project, now in full swing, I hope that a proper appraisal of the 'social and spiritual capital' generated by faith-communities will lead to some changes of attitude on the part of civil society. Too many seem stuck in a mindset that belongs to the past, where it is presumed religious people all stick to the kind of beliefs and behaviour that Richard Dawkins so devoutly and enthusiastically labours to discredit.

Actually, the work I've been doing on the side gives great cheer on a day like today, when I had to play caretaker at St James' for a couple of hours, to give access to the contractors who are going to be removing the font to the school and the reredos down to St Theodore's Port Talbot, now that all the permissions are in place. One of my tasks was to shift half a dozen large display panels from church over to school. They were taken down last September and used to mount the exhibition of school and church history we prepared for the closing weekend of the church. I took them down ready for removal, and they've stood propped up by the door, still covered with exhibition material, ever since. Nobody bothered to come and fetch them. The church still has lots of old hymn and prayer books, altar frontals, and stacks of dismantled pews which we failed to re-cycle. There simply hasn't been enough people, or enough interest to clear the place properly. It's been too painful.

I'm just hoping and praying that someone with the vision and energy will come along and see the potential of the building as a community arts centre. Over the past year, several different groups have taken a look at the place with interest, but have been non-committal, perhaps because it wasn't yet definitely up for grabs', so to speak.

I wait to be surprised.

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