Whether British citizens are born here or not, their weakest sense of belonging is with their local neighbourhood. Around 40% of the people who live around you don't feel like they belong.
Here is a twofold challenge for the church, particularly the Anglican church, which works very much on neighbourhoods and the local setting:
- If you base your identity, appeal and mission on being 'the parish church for x', and then find that 20% of your parish residents don't feel like they belong to x, and a further 20% have, at best, a very weak sense of belonging, what does that do to your mission and ministry in this area?
(And on a wider front, if the CofE is based on the parish system, in turn premised on a sense of local belonging, and that sense of belonging is missing or tenuous for 40% of the population, then what does that say about the parish system?)
- How can the local church enable people to feel a sense of belonging to their neighbourhood?
According to the data, (p104) the groups which feel least sense of belonging to their neighbourhood are 25-35s, working people (as opposed to non-working) and white people. The sample sizes start to get a bit small at this level, but this raises a separate question. Does a group who wants to build community (church or otherwise) try to get these groups interested in their neighbourhood, or would they naturally find a sense of community somewhere else (e.g. workplace, club scene, sport)?
not that the church should be organised based on the latest opinion poll, but then neither should it be organised as if it operates in a historical and cultural vacuum. Plenty of chewy questions here...