Spirituality Of Family, Workplace And Community

The Spirituality of Family, Workplace and Community

Day 3 of the Roundtable on ‘Shaping Australia’s Spirituality’ focussed on the spirituality and Christian ministry related to family, workplace and community. It was chaired by John Farquharson.

Rev Dr Philip Hughes began by noting that most people do not think much about ‘spirituality’ in relation to the workplace. While young people want their work to be meaningful, they mostly find that in making money for the support of their families and in funding their leisure. They may also appreciate activities in which they feel they can achieve something themselves and make a difference to others. However, there is little sense of ‘vocation’.

What young people want most in a job is (in the following order):

  • that it is interesting;
  • offers high pay;
  • have nice colleagues;
  • time for the family;
  • and provides some variety and excitement

Local communities were centres for local life, especially for women, through to 1960s and 1970s. Local community life has largely disappeared since the 1960s in the larger cities due to increased mobility, use of electronic communications, and in people forming community with people who share their interests.

Many churches serve ‘niche’ communities such as people with a common history or a common ethnic background. Most churches are now regional. Contributing to the formation of community is an on-going challenge.

Stephen Reid noted how family life had changed in the 15 years, with increases in couples without children, one parent families, and lone person households. There had been a decrease in the proportion of couples with children.

Yet, 46% of Australians see ‘family life’ as the most critical issue for human societies today.

While the proportion of de facto relationships, 83% of Australians disagree that ‘marriage is an out-dated institution’. However, household roles are becoming less defined by gender.

There are a number of indicators that suggest that family life is not strong in contemporary Australian society:

  • more than one-third of marriages end in divorce;
  • 5 per cent of Australians say they are not treated well by their partners;
  • domestic violence is increasing;
  • child abuse is increasing;
  • many people living alone are lonely.

Churches make significant contributions to family life through:

  • family-friendly activities and worship;
  • child-oriented ministries; and
  • encouraging marriage to be seen as a sacrament, binding for life.

Church attendance has been shown to be a factor in lowering the rate of divorce. On the other hand, there has been a cost to that in that many separated and divorced people feel excluded by churches.

Stephen Reid concluded by asking ‘Can a sense of community be developed in the churches which is more inclusive and encourages a deepening of the qualities of relationship in families and households in their many shapes and sizes?’

For an audio file of these presentations, right-click here and save the mp3 file to your computer.

The following people discussed the research and brought their own observations:

  • Dr Lindsay McMillan (Converge International)
  • Dr Therese Vassarotti (ACU)
  • Rick Brouwer (Total Wellbeing), and
  • Dr Terry Butler (Avondale College).

For an audio file of these reflections and observations, right-click here and save the mp3 file to your computer.

For a more detailed presentation of the research, see the book, Shaping Australia’s Spirituality: A Review of Christian Ministry in the Australian Context, by Rev Dr Philip Hughes.

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