The Desecularisation of the City [LivingChurch]

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    The Desecularisation of the City

    The Rev. Dr. David Goodhew | January 29, 2019 | Church of England, Commentary, Ministry

    In 1895 Arthur Winnington-Ingram, the future Bishop of London, remarked: “It is not that the Church of God has lost the great towns; it has never had them.” From the great urban centres of western Europe to the suave cities of East and West Coast America, from Marx and Engels to a raft of Anglican bishops in the United States and Britain, the city has long been assumed to be the centre of secularisation.

    But a truth may be universally assumed when it is not actually true. New York is home to proliferating congregations. Parallel studies of Chicago and Washington depict cities that are anything but secular.

    New research by an international team of scholars allows us to dig deep into these shifts in a book that I had the pleasure to edit with Anthony-Paul Cooper: The Desecularisation of the City: London’s Churches, 1980 to the Present. It was launched recently at an event hosted by Westminster Abbey.

    Desecularisation of the City shows that the number of churches (of all denominations) in London has dramatically grown, not shrunk, in recent decades. For most of the 20th century, London was a case study of secularisation. It is so no longer. London matters in its own right. But it also matters as a globalising city, which is a guide to what is and may soon happen in other globalising cities in Britain, the United States, and further afield.

    Data from veteran researcher Peter Brierley shows the magnitude of the change.

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