Living in two worlds: A study of the variety and characteristics of church life and policies in selected Church of England parishes

Hill, Colin (1988). Living in two worlds: A study of the variety and characteristics of church life and policies in selected Church of England parishes. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000ded6

Abstract

The thesis advances a sociological model of local Church of England churches.

The model is based on a study of the process of secularisation which is seen to influence the local churches towards their becoming specialist religious organisations. The variety of ways in which churches respond to this influence is an important part of understanding the differences between churches. 144 parishes from the West Midlands and from four New Towns were investigated by postal survey. Follow-up interviews with clergy and churchwardens in thirteen selected parishes provided the most important data for the development of the model.

The model has two axes: the priorities held by local churches and the activities which the churches pursue. Priorities and activities are classified according to whether they are sacred or secular orientated. Four ideal types emerge from the model: the Sectarian Church, with sacred activities and priorities; the Missionising Church, with secular activities but sacred priorities; the Community Church, with secular activities and priorities; and the Civic Church, with sacred activities but secular priorities. The thirteen parishes are plotted on the model and some of the applications of the model are demonstrated.

Subsidiary areas of investigation are the distinctiveness of New Town church life; the priorities of the clergy and their influence on the local church; and findings about the "well-being" of the local church which challenge the stereotype view of the Church of England in decline.

The model, rooted in sociological theory and research data, is shown to be robust and valuable in understanding variations between local churches, different aspects of their life and changes taking place over time.

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