Churches Together in South Yorkshire: Local ecumenical activity survey 2016-17

Research undertaken in Yorkshire, into local formal and informal ecumenical activity

Contents of the report:

Page 2-3: Summary of findings of CTSY research into local ecumenical activity

Page 4: Overview chart of the frequency of different activities

Pages 5-8: Detailed charts of frequency of different activities

Pages 9-10: Raw table of data for recorded Together Groups

Page 11: Map of Together Groups from 2011

Page 12: Map of Together Groups from May 2017

Summary of findings of CTSY research into local ecumenical activity

1. Aim

A key current aim of the Area Church Leaders in membership of CTSY is to see the growth of joint missional activity at a local level (mission meaning proclamation, practical service, and prophetic action for peace and justice).

The survey undertaken between the summer of 2016 and early 2017, was to identify all groups where people from three or more churches are engaged in some sort of joint activity together, and to get a sense of what that activity is.  We needed to look in much more depth at what they were doing, to get a sense of the missional activity being done jointly across the Christian traditions, and to inform the denominations of where it needed to be stimulated.

The reference point was the list of 45 groups listed in a CTSY database in 2011. All but 7 of these identified as Councils of Churches or Churches Together groups.  Twelve of the groups were already known either not to be active or for which we had no active contact. Some other groups were known to have started since 2011. Thirty one groups responded within the time scale.

Different sorts of joint activity not surveyed

None of this captures the fact that individuals from one church may well volunteer to help at another church’s activities on an informal basis where there is no joint group in their area. It also doesn’t include joint missional projects where several churches formally or informally collaborate on a local project. These may grow out of a Churches Together group which then ceases, or in the absence of any sort of regular meeting – e.g. the Terminus Project in Low Edges, Sheffield and Manna Café in Bentley, nr. Doncaster, respectively.

Nor are we aiming to capture those activities like Street Pastors where Christians of many denominations are active irrespective of tradition, which are sometimes set up with no participants from the churches based in the area where they are serving.

2. Overall Results  (see p.4  for summary chart)

The range of activity, the range of denominations joining in, and the sorts of groups across S Yorkshire have grown much more varied than in 2012, but the number we know to be active has greatly reduced – from 45 groups to 31, of which 10 are not traditional CT Groups. We would welcome hearing from more groups where we’ve not been able to make contact.

The greatest shift in the range of activities is the larger than expected growth in those who are doing some sort of outward facing activities in terms of things like family fundays, services or events that mark different seasons of the Christian year, and more groups praying together for their area and/or doing prayer walks.   

The two most frequent activities with over 70% of groups doing them regularly or sometimes – are prayer for the area and some form of Joint Worship or Witness (external) – this latter often a Walk of Witness or prayers round a cross on Good Friday or a Remembrance Day event.

The greatest shift in denominational involvement is the growing participation by Pentecostal churches – mostly the white-led denominations. At the moment the Chair of Churches Together in Rotherham (borough-wide group) is a Pentecostal representative, and one of the local church leaders in Barnsley has been the most enthusiastic about exploring how to engage well across the traditions and work together despite theological differences. In addition to Churches Together and clergy/pastors gatherings there are more prayer- based groups – most for the local area – including N Sheffield Estates Prayer Group begun in 2016, Rotherham Leaders Prayer Breakfasts  and the recent change in Central Churches Doncaster to be primarily praying for the town ce