Historically, churches have played a significant role as a focus for community activity, and in many rural areas they are rediscovering this through imaginative use of their buildings and people.
Faith and faith organisations are active in creating communities. The chaplaincy interest stems from an involvement in a multi-faith centre and multi-faith dialogue, and from an academic (theological) interest (including some study of a utopian movement, the Shakers). Much has been made of the government’s policy on ‘community cohesion’, but often it is perceived more in the context of a preventing violent extremism (PVE) agenda rather than truly focussing on building community. The question arises, ‘what is it that binds a community together?’ While it is clearly no panacea, there are many examples of where faith has and can play a significant role in this. Either explicitly (as in utopian communities) or implicitly (in, for example, much community development work undertaken by faith communities), there is a spiritual dimension that needs to be understood.
There are a number of theological strands that have grown in significance in recent years that may be of value in considering how to develop sustainable communities. The growth of ‘Christian environmentalism’ is perhaps an obvious example, but it is perhaps a more recent development of a trend that includes the growth of the fair-trade movement that has been encouraged (if not enabled) by ethical systems rooted in religious faith.