Stephen has spoken at a panel event highlighting London’s growing religiosity and the significance of faith groups in moments of national tragedy. Organised by the University of Kent Understanding Unbelief Programme and the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), the event explored belief and unbelief in such crises.
Last year NatCen’s British Social Attitudes Survey revealed that 52% of people now identify as having no religion. These trends were explored by speakers at the event such as lead researcher for the Unbelief project, Dr Lois Lee.
Stephen commented, however, that this data did not tell the whole story. He highlighted recent research on the desecularisation of London showing that Sunday church attendance in London is now around 10% higher than it was in 1979, and the number of congregations 50% higher. He noted that in Newham around 260 churches had been founded and remain in operation since 1975.
Stephen went on to explore the role of faith groups in moments of national tragedy such as terror attacks or most recently Grenfell, as highlighted in recent Theos research. At the event, those practically involved in pastoral work and crisis response such as Simon O’Donoghue from Humanists UK and Mark Harris of Samaritans noted the need for collaboration, pastoral sensitivity and to seek out nonreligious voices for media comment.
Stephen commented afterwards: “I am convinced that without faith groups, our crisis response would be much poorer. I was delighted to be at the event to explore how people of faith can best support believers and unbelievers in such crises.”