Shaping debate on religion in public life.

William Temple Scholars

Read about the William Temple Scholars, beginning their studies at Goldsmiths in September 2017

Matthew Barber FRSA

Matthew’s research proposes a new model of Faith Based Organisation (FBO).  Matthew’s problematic is that existing models and understandings of FBO and their engagement in contexts of alterity, diversity and marginalisation are too static, too linear and too hierarchical. His contention is that the impact of long-term austerity, coupled with deep and structural shifts in the belief landscape of the UK, has created a new set of conditions for partnership and mission that old models and understandings fail to capture and critique. The model he is proposing is called ‘Spaces of Hope’.

In addition to developing Spaces of Hope as a doctoral candidate at Goldsmiths, University of London, Matthew is also a systems entrepreneur; curating Spaces of Hope in north west urban contexts, building alliances with FBOs including Link Up Faith Network in West Cheshire, the Anglican Diocese of Chester and the William Temple Foundation, as well as securing a fellowship from the Royal Society of Arts for his work modelling environments and movements of relational social change and their role in combatting social isolation across civil society.

Valerie Barron

From a background in nursing, Val studied Health and Social Policy at Warwick University which led her to work in Health Promotion. While studying for an MSc in Community Wellbeing, she began to appreciate how local churches were key in supporting people that were struggling in their community.  She felt the church was in a unique position to respond and now, as community development worker for the CUF Together Network, she works alongside church congregations and communities in Durham Diocese.

While working with a group in an ex-mining community in East Durham, they described themselves as a very ‘done to’ place by organisations and charities, ‘they come here, do stuff to us and leave’ was how one participant described their village.  Val has been passionate about exploring how a more asset based approach to community development can be embedded so the church isn’t seen as another service deliverer that ‘does stuff to people’.  Recognising and building upon the assets and talents within a community often leads to volunteering opportunities.  In an area of the country described as with low-wage, high-welfare she is interested in how social enterprises can build economy as well as community and skills, and the part local churches can play in enabling this to happen.  In practice, when talking to local the conversation moves to their passions and skills we discover a wealth of assets.

Social Enterprises have been used successfully to build sustainable community engagement projects yet few churches are engaging with this model. By understanding how and where social enterprise could help individuals, communities and churches to flourish, Val hopes this research will provide an opportunity to shape thinking and practice.

Living in her husband’s parish in Gateshead with their three children Val is personally engaged in the issues and challenges that face communities and churches.

Yasmin Khatun Dewan

Yasmin is a multimedia London based journalist. Her work spans global conflict zones, fashion and identity politics. In 2014 she researched, wrote, reported and produced the investigative documentary ‘Slave Industry: A year on from Rana Plaza‘ – shortlisted for international television investigation 2015 (Association of International broadcasting awards) and travelled to the Chadian borders of the Central African Republic to document the crisis in the recent civil war and meet refugees escaping the violence. She has also produced numerous reports on issues related to British Muslim communities on integration, political participation and identity, providing commentary on such issues. In the last seven years she has conducted extensive field research on the area. In 2009 she graduated with a BA in Sociology and Politics from Goldsmiths University of London. Whilst at Goldsmiths she studied topics including colonialism, political discourse, globalisation, development and rhetoric. Her dissertation focused on socio-scientific explanations of political phenomena within British Muslim communities’ post 7/7. Following her graduation she has maintained an avid interest in Muslim identities in the West and through her experiences and research holds an intimate understanding of the area.

Her research interests include: Conflict/ Post-conflict environments, Human Rights, sexual violence in war, Central African Republic, identity, religion; Islam and fashion.

Yasmin’s research will explore modest fashion as a space curated by Muslim women and its impact on internal religious structures through its use of religious symbols such as the hijab. Looking at how religion and religious symbols have been used as tools to facilitate the phenomena and its resulting impact. This is within a framework of domestic counter-terrorism, cohesion, orientalist ideas around Muslim female dress and identity. The research will take into account the phenomena as a means of dialogue with global reach and provide an insight into the tensions and challenges posed by modest fashion including issues of contention and debate.

Gill Reeve

Gill is a researching practitioner who has worked in faith based organisations in urban contexts since 2007, and she is currently training as a pioneer minister in the Church of England. Previously to this she worked as a Speech and Language Therapist in general hospitals, taking a clinical lead in quality and audit. Her years in the NHS have shaped her as a faith practitioner both in her evaluative and analytical approach to practice and in her commitment to inter-disciplinary working.

After graduating with an MA in Leadership and Mission in 2010, Gill became a Director of a faith based organisation in Chester. Her responsibilities included lecturing in ‘community engagement and reflective practice’ for a foundation degree in theology and overseeing student placements. With an interest in new expressions of church that are more accessible to people in their everyday lives, Gill pioneered ‘Night Church – Chester’: an inclusive, sacred space in the night time economy open between 10pm-2am. Night Church is now well established, with 100-150 visitors each evening from people out and about in the city at night and with collaborative partnerships with the local council, the police, the homelessness services provider and others.

In July 2017 Gill completed an MProf in Practical Theology at the University of Chester, researching faith engagement in the night time economy. Building on this knowledge, Gill’s PhD research will explore how faith practitioners, working in collaborative partnerships in urban deprived areas, are navigating and sustaining their faith practice. In the UK context of ongoing austerity, progressive urban coalitions are increasingly critical in supporting local communities. These coalitions are currently under-researched, with a lack of understanding into how they are established and sustained. Gill’s research seeks to address this gap through research-led insights that are capable of informing decision making both for the faith sector and also local government.

Matt Stemp

Matt is a climate activist and religious studies researcher. His research explores the mobilisation of religion in the mass civil disobedience movement Extinction Rebellion (XR), seeking to understand how and why people from different faith-based, spiritual and secular perspectives are engaging with and shaping contemporary climate activism. He takes a multi-disciplinary approach to religious studies, drawing on sociological, psychological and philosophical research to interpret how new climate activist movements are overcoming social inertia and the tragic and traumatising character of the climate crisis.

Matt previously lived and worked in Colchester, where he was a campaigner and coordinator for the local Green Party and co-founder of the XR local group. He is now based in Forest Hill in South London, where he is one of the coordinators of XR Lewisham. Alongside his PhD research at nearby Goldsmiths College, he is developing a network of researchers, writers and artists interested in urban climate activist culture, inspired by the Dark Mountain project and the Transition Town movement.

Matt has a longstanding personal and academic interest in religion and spirituality, particularly Christianity, mystical traditions, continental philosophy of religion and spiritual ecology. Following his first degree in Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, he worked for the Church of England as a youth worker and pioneer developing new forms of Christian community. His master’s research at King’s College London focussed on the theology of the emerging church movement in the UK. Though no longer a religious practitioner (at least in any recognisable form), he remains deeply interested in how religious and spiritual modes of thought and practice influence contemporary culture. His work on XR seeks to encourage people of all faiths and none to reflect on how the insights and tools of religion and spirituality can support the difficult work of climate activism.

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