Pointers September 2020

Inside this issue:

Is the Church Liquifying?
The most popular metaphor of what is happening to religious faith in contemporary Western societies is that of secularisation. It is a metaphor of the replacement of religious thinking by scientific thinking. While many scholars have suggested their own versions of secularisation, there is widespread doubt about the value of that metaphor. Another metaphor has been suggested by the British-Polish social theorist, Zygmunt Bauman: the liquifying of modernity. Perhaps his image is that of a huge, solid iceberg, very solid and stable, which begins to melt as it is surrounded by warm currents of water. The iceberg breaks apart. Small sections of ice continue to float. But some of the ice melts entirely into the water which surrounds it.

Listening to the Homeless: Social Housing in the Corner Inlet area of Victoria
In 2019, the Christian Research Association was contracted by the Foster Conference of the St Vincent de Paul Society to investigate people’s attitudes and experiences of homelessness in the Corner Inlet area, a location in the South Gippsland region, approximately 200 kilometres south-east of Melbourne. The project aimed to understand more about the circumstances leading to homelessness, the challenges individuals faced in such situations, the support structures needed to assist, and to determine the extent to which there may be a need for additional social housing in the area.

The Carmel Framework: Engaging Religious Education Students with Truth
I have been teaching secondary school Religious Education (RE) for 27 years, and engagement has been a dominant issue over that time. The big question in conferences, workshops, forums or staff meetings is: how do we get students to engage with this subject? I need to clarify what I mean by engagement. There have been numerous resources to assist staff to engage students at an entertainment level, such as games and quizzes, which support topics within most curriculums. The real challenge, however, is to engage students at a much deeper level; that is, at a life and faith level.


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Pointers June 2020

Inside this issue:

Australians’ Changing Religious Practices
Ten years ago, the Christian Research Association reported on results from the 2009 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes and noted that the number of Australians attending religious services was in decline. Comparison of similar survey data between 1993 and 2009 showed that the proportion of Australians attending a service of worship monthly or more often decreased from 23 per cent to 16 per cent, whilst occasional attendance dropped from 42 per cent to 36 per cent (Pickering, 2010, pp. 6–9). While the March 2020 edition of Pointers revealed Australia’s changing religious and spiritual profile (Hughes, 2020, pp. 1–6), further analysis of recently released data from the 2018 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes shows further decline in the attendance patterns of Australians.

Australia Reimagined: A Book for our Times
Hugh Mackay published Australia Reimagined in 2018. It describes the social challenges that Australia faces and how these might  be overcome to build a better society. I found that much in the book rings even more true in the midst of the COVID­19 pandemic than when it was written. It describes both the social nature of the crisis that we are going through and the possibilities as we re­build our society. How could it be so prophetic? Because COVID­19 has exaggerated so many aspects of Australian society.

Australians’ Confidence in Churches andReligious Organisations
While numerous factors have been identified as having an impact on the religious attitudes and practices of Australians (Hughes, 2010; Hughes, 2012), one significant factor, which can take an inordinate length of time to develop but erode rather rapidly, is the level of confidence in churches and religious institutions. There has been ongoing decline in the confidence levels of Australians towards religious institutions over the last few decades. However, is such change unique or has there also been a decline in the confidence levels in other institutions, such as politics, business and industry, or education?

Profiling the Catholic Community in Australia: Using Census data for Church Planning A Brief Review of the 2016 Social Profiles
The National Centre for Pastoral Research (NCPR), the research agency of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, has recently published over 1,300 profiles on the Catholic Community in Australia based on data from the 2016 Census. The Parish Social Profiles and the Diocesan Social Profiles are 32 page reports containing tables, graphs and commentary on customised Census data on the 1,297 geographical parishes and 28 geographical dioceses in Australia.

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Children’s Prayer – A Multi-faith Perspective

This book provides strong arguments for giving prayer a central place in the education and nurture of children. It is based on research in Australian Catholic, parent-controlled Christian, Independent, Jewish, Muslim and government schools. The author demonstrates focused attention and care in the data collection from the words of children and their drawings of people praying. She takes us through her thorough processes of analysis and synthesis.

The research shows that prayer is valued by all children, whether they come from a religious background or not. For some children it is a way of associating with their communities and traditions of faith. For others, prayer is practised in an individualistic manner.

Prayer is a way to perceive and respond to the experiences of life. It can help in dealing with the challenging emotional states of anxiety, loneliness, fear, anger and guilt. It can give hope for the future. It provides a way of seeking help for others, as well as expressing praise and thanksgiving.

Vivienne Mountain has a background in teaching and in clinical counselling. She lectures in Spirituality and Ministry with Children at Stirling Theological College, University of Divinity, Australia. She has published three books as well as contributing chapters to a number of others and articles for national and international journals.

Vivienne Mountain PhD, MA (Theology), MA (Creative arts therapy), MA ( Philosophy and religion), B Ed, B Th.

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A Vision for effective Youth Ministry

Many young Australians are struggling with issues of mental health, anxiety about the future, and addictions to drugs. Behind these struggles are often questions of what life is all about. Youth ministry is more important today than at any time in recent history. Yet, many churches are finding it difficult to connect with youth beyond those whose families are involved in the church.

This book has arisen out of Australian research into youth ministry, from visiting youth groups and talking with youth leaders and the youth themselves. It offers a vision for the development of youth ministry, recognising the diversity of youth and the backgrounds from which they come.

It explores how to build a youth ministry team and the qualities needed in the team. It discusses issues of training, payment, and support for youth leaders and building bridges with parents, church and school.

What are the factors which will really make a difference in developing youth ministry? Based on research, our conclusions are:

  • The vision for developing the spirit of young people

  • The commitment of the whole church to youth ministry

  • The youth ministry team with strong relationships with God, each other, the youth, parents, the church and the wider society;

  • A diversity of activities: both age-specific and intergenerational for fun, friends, inquiry and developing the spirit.

The Authors:

Rev Dr Philip Hughes has had pastoral experience in inner city, suburban and rural churches, and has been the senior research officer of the Christian Research Association since 1985. He has two adult children and one grandchild.

Stephen Reid has worked for the Christian Research Association since 2007 and has one teenage child and two younger children.

Margaret Fraser has worked for the Christian Research Association since 2011. She has two children who are completing university and two who are teenagers.

All three authors were involved in interviews with youth, youth leaders, clergy and parents for this study.

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