Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Surveying Cardiff's churches

With a little extra time on my hands at the moment, I've been able to complete the task of building a database of religious groups and communities in the City Borough of Cardiff. Doing this is part of what the Spiritual Capital research project set out to achieve. It has involved sifting through the contact information I collected over a year ago to guide the research work to be done for us by the University Regeneration Institute, and then checking against entries on publicly accessible web sites. We don't want to publish anything that isn't already available in the public domain, but we do want to publish accurate information that will be easy to up-date in future, when we have the means to do so on the Spiritual Capital Cardiff website.

Unfortunately much of the information available on the web is outdated or otherwise inaccurate, and simply hasn't been amended. There's an amazing bi-lingual spelling error in the title of a student-land church on both the University Chaplaincy website. I suspect a lot of data is simply compiled by cut and paste replication. I know from my own experience just how tedious it is to verify information found. However, the task has proved more rewarding than expected, as I have been able to uncover more new information about religious groups I knew about, and also information about new groups I hadn't heard of before.

I've deliberately restricted information gathering to web-searching for the moment, as that an indication of any group's willingness to make its presence known. No doubt there are groups meeting out there in the city, which gather adherents by word of mouth, or very local publicity efforts. Religious groups often start meeting in houses and when they outgrow the place and want to move into a public hall, find the need to inform a wider circle, and go public. Larger historic church institutions can have a big public profile and a small active membership. Many new emerging church groups may have equally sized active membership, but quite a low public profile, if they are worshipping in borrowed public premesis. It's also interesting that the city has many small church buildings, founded by evangelical missions over a century ago. A glimpse at their history often reveals how they have remained places of worship, but the denominational affiliation of its members and leaders has changed several times.

I have the impression that there's been a considerable increase in the number of Christian groups with their own websites over the past year - this must be, in part due to the ease of use of new web page making tools now available. Having a current web presence is a useful indication of the current state of smaller churches, often accommodated in much older buildings. There's even a mission that meets in a pub, and has no building of its own, but a distinctive web-page of its own. All this makes it a lot easier to find contact details and information. I now have a list of 202 religious bodies, of which 185 are Christian and 27 of other faiths, and that's grown by ten percent during my latest revision efforts, with new discoveries, and may grow even further before the list is published.

No comments: