Our recent project exploring faith-based social action in Southampton threw up some interesting conclusions. While there are a plethora of faith-based social action projects in the city – almost entirely Christian but largely interdenominational – speaking with people about these projects evokes admiration but more than a little frustration.
Several people would love to get involved in some of the projects currently being run, but see the faith-affiliation of these projects as a barrier to involvement. This means that there are probably a lot of potential volunteers without outlets for their energies and skills.
Faith groups don’t have exclusivity over altruism, but they do have the resources and the commitment to sustain social action projects where secular groups cannot. In an age of austerity the challenge may be how we can open out faith-based social action to secular contribution without undermining the basis of that social action in the first place.