Being church in Longbridge: practical theology of local churches in a post-industrial community

Phillips, Caroline Jill (2016). Being church in Longbridge: practical theology of local churches in a post-industrial community. University of Birmingham. Th.D.

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2005 saw the closure of the car factory that was once economically, socially and culturally central to Longbridge, Birmingham. Following this, this thesis examines how the Church communicates the Gospel there. Employing practical theological methodology, a case study approach exploring the practice of two local churches using ethnographic methods is offered. An account of their practical theologies and their significance for God's mission in Longbridge is given.

Data analysis revealed that, over many years, 'post-industrial' Longbridge had lost its heart and sense of place, wrestled with belonging locally and faced future uncertainty. The local Anglican church uses incarnational theology which views locality as the arena for God's purposes, and counter-culturally preserves local identity amidst deconstructive post-industrial forces. The local Methodist church emphasizes the 'social holiness' of Godself, providing multiple ways to belong and reviving relatedness between local residents.

This thesis demonstrates the complexities of shaping a practical theology within a rapidly-changing, destabilised environment, whilst claiming the importance of locally-based church practice. Although the churches cannot offer blueprints for ecclesial life, their comparative experiences indicate principles for a practical theology of local churches in post-industrial communities, based upon vulnerability, commitment to presence and a conscious seeking to serve God's mission afresh.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Th.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Th.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, Department of Theology and Religion
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BV Practical Theology
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races


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