Pointers December 2016


Social Connectedness: The role of the local church in building community
In the digitised, commercialised western world, a great deal has been written about the loss of community and the impact that lack of connectedness has on mental health and well-being (Emery, 2012; Hughes et al., 2007; Pretty et al., 2006; Putnam, 2000; Mackay, 2014). Loneliness is seen as an increasing social problem affecting many people in modern society. Older people, people who are unemployed, young mums and people with limited financial means are all vulnerable and may experience social isolation and loneliness as a consequence of their individual circumstances.

Retreats and Camps for Young People
Graham Rossiter, professor in the Cardinal Clancy Centre for Research in the Spiritual, Moral, Religious and Pastoral Dimensions of Education at Australian Catholic University, has just published a book about retreats in Catholic schools: Research on Retreats: The views of teachers and senior students about retreats in Australian Catholic secondary schools. It claims to be the largest study of retreats ever conducted in the English speaking world, based on surveys of 150 students and 500 teachers from 40 Catholic schools. The results are significant, not only for Catholic schools, but for education in general.

Disability in the Church
US Catholic parishes and People with a Disability
At the recent meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion and Religious Research Association, held in Atlanta, Georgia, one of the papers reported on a recently conducted study of American Catholic parishes and people with disabilities. The paper was delivered by Jonathon Holland, a researcher from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), the US Catholic research office located at Georgetown University in  Washington DC. The results of the study warrant reflection about the importance of the inclusiveness of churches toward people with a disability.


Book review:
Trudy Dantis (2016).
ACBC Pastoral Research Office A Handbook for Building Stronger Parishes is an excellent resource for church leaders and local churches in developing parish ministries. Compiled by Dr. Trudy Dantis and based on her important research on parish vitality, this publication details several inspirational case studies from across Australia, focusing on the achievements of these parishes in various areas that are critical to the overall ministry of the parish.

The “return of theology” to the social and political sciences:
A very brief introduction

There has been a long tradition in Australia, going back to the sectarian conflict in the colonial era, of excluding theology as a legitimate subject of study, let alone as relevant to serious research in Universities. There has also been an implicit acceptance by researchers in the late twentieth century of a strong version of the secularisation thesis. With the anticipated departure of churches and Christianity from public life, researchers concluded that they could develop careers with apparently more promising and viable research agendas, making theology irrelevant. Operating outside this academic environment indifferent to theological issues, the Christian Research Association (CRA) has explored with academic rigor both religious practice and its institutional manifestations, while paying attention to broader societal implications. CRA has also from time to time surveyed the social science literature that underpins its research. Such literature surveys are important in offering the opportunity to reframe and refocus the research.

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