A team of researchers from the Applied Research Centre in Sustainable Regeneration (SURGE) at Coventry University has recently completed a £69,000 year-long research study of religion as social capital in Oxfordshire.
Commissioned by the Oxfordshire Stronger Communities Alliance (OSCA) on behalf of a consortium of eight funding partners, Building Better Neighbourhoods: The Contribution of Faith Communities to Oxfordshire Life (ISBN 978-1-84600-034-8) was launched in Oxford on 23 June. It is available to download from:
The research utilized both quantitative and qualitative methods. The former phase (running from June to October 2009) is reported in chapter 2 (pp. 5-29) of the document, a paper and electronic self-completion questionnaire being returned by 192 (or 40%) of Oxfordshire’s 450 places of worship. 72% of respondents were Anglican, 21% other Christian denominations and 7% non-Christian (all of the last from the City of Oxford or Cherwell district).
Over 13,000 people regularly attend their main worship services, of whom one-third are under 30 years of age. Most (85%) of the Anglican congregations live less than two miles from their place of worship, but 45% of other Christians and 91% of other faiths travel from a greater distance.
Even without grossing up for non-respondents, these 192 places of worship were found to make a substantial contribution to the wider life of the communities within which they are located. In particular, responding places of worship:
- Employ 232 full-time, 177 part-time and 48 seasonal members of staff, with an estimated annual salary bill of £8,500,000
- Give 150,000 community service volunteering hours each year (i.e. excluding the time which is devoted to maintaining the internal life of their places of worship), with an estimated economic value of £850,000
- Make 221 rooms and halls available for use by the wider community, with 80,000 hours of actual use by external organizations each year
- Attract 180,000 visitors per annum, thereby contributing £1,700,000 to the tourist economy
These findings mirror those from other recent studies of religion as social capital, at regional, sub-regional, county and city levels. A short bibliography of relevant literature will be found at: