The Contextual Theology Centre works with a churches and chaplaincies (listed here) in a number of East London neighbourhoods on their engagement in community organising. This work is done in partnership with London Citizens, an alliance of grassroots faith and community groups acting together for for social change. Recent achievements include a 'Living Wage' for many of London's lowest-paid workers, and working with the Mayor for a new model of affordable housing, and the Nehemiah 5 Challenge (tackling usurious interest rates). London Citizens has won a commitment to fair pay at the 2012 Olympics - with a concordat signed by Lord Coe, Mayor Livingstone and one of London Citizens' young Catholic leaders.
Our local engagement helps churches to participate faithfully and effectively in community organising - and to harness it as a tool for congregational development and mission. We provide a range of events, courses and downloadable resources to assist with this work.
In one of our neighbourhoods, we have a new project called the Shoreditch Group. This is helping churches to place their engagement in community organising alongside other projects for social transformation (e.g. Food Bank and debt counselling services) and their wider mission to the neighbourhood. Its patron is Baron (Nat) Wei of Shoreditch.
The Centre seeks to bring this local context into dialogue with other communities' experiences, and with academic research and reflection on the role of faith in a pluralist society. With academics from the Universities of Oxford, Notre Dame and East London, CTC established the Just Communities research programme - with outputs including academic books, papers and symposia, and resources for congregational use.
This has led on to a range of new research partnerships, including the Contending Modernities programme with Notre Dame, a programme of seminars in Oxford, a project on theology, poverty and inequality with The Children's Society, and a developing piece of action research on organising within diaspora communities.
A growing internship programme
Students from our partner universities are also involved in our Jellicoe internship programme - with a growing community living, worshipping and working in East London, and relating their experiences to their academic studies through the Jellicoe Seminars in Oxford and courses on Catholic social teaching at Notre Dame's London Centre.