Here, SWF’s Senior Research Officer Lia Shimada describes SWF’s latest research project.
Anecdotally, we know that the Methodist Church in Britain (MCB) has never been more diverse – culturally, socially, linguistically. Across the Connexion, Methodists and other Christians worship in many ways and in an unknown number of languages.
This collaborative project aims to:
- develop understanding of the cultural and linguistic diversity in the Methodist Church in Britain
- deepen our collective engagement with the gifts and challenges wrought by migration
- illuminate the lived experience of worship and ministry across the Connexion
Research will be conducted by the Susanna Wesley Foundation through the Southlands Methodist Trust (a partnership of the Methodist Church in Britain and the University of Roehampton), with guidance from the Connexional Team, via the Global Communities in the MCB Desk.
Who will participate?
Participation for this study is rooted in the MCB’s existing network of Fellowship Chaplains and other relevant leaders across the Connexion. Dr Lia Shimada (Senior Research Officer, Susanna Wesley Foundation) will work closely with the office of the Revd R.F. Leao-Neto (Global Communities Officer) to engage with this network.
What will the study involve?
The project is organised around three major strands:
(1) Archival Research
- To include major reports commissioned by the Methodist Church, plus relevant Conference papers and other documents
(2) Empirical Research
- Semi-structured individual interviews with leaders (lay and ordained) of fellowships and language congregations
- Quantitative data-gathering regarding demographics, geographic distribution, activities and organisational structure
(3) Theological Reflection
- Facilitated frameworks through which participants can engage with the emerging study
When will the research take place?
Lia Shimada will facilitate Theological Reflection sessions at residential gatherings in November 2023 and May 2024.
In early November, ahead of the first gathering, the Global Communities team will disseminate a short questionnaire to all participants (i.e., leaders/chaplains of fellowships and language congregations). This questionnaire will be designed to elicit quantitative data for each group regarding congregation/fellowship size, demographics, locations, activities and organisational structure.
Following the November gathering, Lia Shimada will contact each participant individually to arrange a date and time for the semi-structured interviews. The interviews will be held from December 2023 through the first quarter of 2024.
At a later date, a focus group may also be organised.
Why is this research important?
The findings of the research will culminate in a written report – but that is just the beginning of the story.
This project will have far-reaching implications for the Methodist Church in Britain, by informing its policies and funding decisions regarding fellowships and language congregations. The research findings will also lay the groundwork for future projects, both academic and practical. Moreover, we envision that by participating in the study, the leaders of the Fellowships and Language Congregations will bring their communities into dialogue with wider connexional strategies.
Ultimately, we hope that this participatory research project will contribute to the flourishing of the Methodist Church in Britain, in all its cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity.
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