Connecting Churches and Cultures
PThU Groningen shares and generates its knowledge with local Christian communities in the northern and eastern part of the country. To this end it has set up a research platform, Connecting Churches and Cultures. It aims at creating new connections and strengthening existing connections between local congregations and local cultures, as well as at connecting Christian congregations with the aim to learn from each other. Currently, the platform consists of 175 congregations. Through CCC research master students have also been enabled to perform research, since congregation are looking for research-support. Four projects have been created in 2014/15.
Two examples of activities illustrate the activities of CCC. In November 2014 a so-called inspiration weekend was organized on one of the Wadden Islands, Terschelling, for more than 200 members of churches in the northern part of the Netherlands. Ideas and best practices were shared about how one can be church in a meaningful way in a time of shrinkage. CCC also inspired by reframing a terminology of despondency, loss and decline: cooperating churches became ‘a fleet of churches’, the church building ‘a lighthouse in time', a new policy was called ‘over een andere boeg’ (Dutch proverb, using shipping terms, meaning ‘a different approach’), whereas caring for each other made the church a 'safe haven'. The weekend got attention in the print Frisian media. In May 2014 forty people participated in a study afternoon 'Church on a trembling earth’, following earthquakes (2.2 – 3.7 on the Richter scale) in the province of Groningen as a result of gas winning. The central question was what local churches can do with and for people in the earthquake area. The afternoon was organized in cooperation with PKN congregations in the gas winning area and the Municipal Health Services Groningen. Also this day got attention in the Frisian print media.
Brouwer works in the same field of Congregational studies, in Amsterdam. In 2014 he organised a conference of the Transforming Religious Identities and Communities (TRIC) network, a NOW project supervised by VU colleague Ganzenvoort. He will be editing the network’s volume on ‘Religious Leadership for the Future’ (2015).