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Spiritual Progression in Economic Recession - exploring the relationship between economic downturn and religious and spiritual life in the UK in the next 10 years. Conference – University of Chester – March 17th 2011
This conference marked the inaugural event for the new Centre for Faiths and Public Policy (part of a research partnership between the William Temple Foundation and the University of Chester) and attracted a wider number of participants across the Northwest and beyond. Contributors included Professor Ali Saeidi (University of Tehran), Professor Linda Woodhead, Dr Musharrif Hussain, Dr Francis Davis, Mary Dowson, Anna Thompson, Dr Giselle Vincett, Monsignor John Devine and Professor Peter Gilbert. The broad-based nature and participatory emphasis of the event generated many perspectives on the relationship between spiritual progression and economic recession. There was a real effort to understand and engage with a range of different perspectives and languages, and the challenges of taking a holistic and multi-levelled approach to this issue was recognised.
However, there were also overlapping areas of agreed diagnosis; that in times of economic recession people seek a deeper sense of connection, both with God/Divine/Spirit and with each other. The importance of the virtues of solidarity and valuing the other as materialism fails, and the importance of morality and spirituality in helping to build inner resilience were commonly affirmed. There was agreement on the importance of belonging to religious and spiritual communities as a form of tangible solidarity and unity. There was also renewed acknowledgment of the importance of the faith sector in providing both practical care and support to those affected by entrenched poverty and exclusion, as well as developing new technologies of social welfare and democratic inclusion. However, a clear signal was also delivered that religion and spirituality would not be uncritically co-opted into a narrowly political Big Society agenda