Lunn, Andrew John (2012)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
Many local churches in Britain have adopted a neighbourhood paradigm, in which the neighbourhood is seen as the primary locus of mission and ministry. Social change increasingly calls that paradigm into question. This thesis engages in a reflective conversation between the sociological context of neighbourhood churches in the United Kingdom and theological themes which resource the self-understanding of such churches.
Beginning with action research, and then through a review of literature from ecclesial sources, the neighbourhood paradigm is explored and then critiqued. The critique comes particularly through the sociology of individualization. Alternative models of church are explored as they begin to address these issues.
The action research, analysis of the neighbourhood paradigm, and the study of individualization all point to ambivalence and hybridity as key experiences in late modernity.
Theological reflection on individualization and ambivalence develops an understanding of Christian freedom which can engage with ambivalence and social change. This provides a theological resource for relating to the sociological context of local churches. This resource recognizes the essentially mixed and hybrid nature of contemporary lives and contemporary neighbourhoods, and provides a foundation for a renewed hybrid paradigm for neighbourhood ministry.
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