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Gwybodaeth Lyfryddol
Politics and Society in Wales: Religion, Secularization and Social Change in Wales - Congregational Studies in a Post-Christian Society
Paul Chambers
ISBN: 9780708318843 (0708318843)Dyddiad Cyhoeddi Ionawr 2005
Cyhoeddwr: Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru / University of Wales Press, Caerdydd
Golygwyd gan Ralph Fevre Fformat: Clawr Meddal, 234x156 mm, 246 tudalen Iaith: Saesneg Archebir yn ôl y galw Pris Llawn: £9.99 
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Does dim Adolygiad Cwsmer i'r teitl hwn.
 
Ysgrifennwch Adolygiad Cwsmer
Astudiaeth hynod ddarllenadwy o'r berthynas rhwng newid crefyddol a newid economaidd a chymdeithasol mewn cymdeithas gyfoes yng Nghymru, yn arbennig y twf a'r dirywiad yn ardal Abertawe, ynghyd ag archwiliad o'r ffactorau sy'n sail i ffyniant crefyddol, gyda nodiadau manwl a llyfryddiaeth.

A highly readable study of the relationship between religious change and economic and social change in contemporary Welsh society, in particular the growth and decline in the Swansea area, together with an exploration of the factors which form the basis of religious prosperity, with detailed notes and biliography.
The decline of Christianity in Wales, as indeed throughout much of Europe, is plain for all to see. This book, which is based on the author’s PhD thesis, offers a sociological analysis of some of the reasons for the present situation. It must be said at once, however, that the scope is narrower than the title suggests. This is not a study of Wales as a whole but of certain Christian congregations in Swansea.

Although the decline of Christianity is often attributed to the process of secularization, the author argues that, so far as individual congregations are concerned, their success or failure is mainly dependent on more local considerations. After introductory chapters surveying secularization in Western societies and social and religious change in Swansea, the book concentrates on studies of a number of specific church and chapel congregations and analyses the reasons for their recent fortunes. Although written by a sociologist for others in the discipline, the book is accessible to the general reader. The only exception is the chapter on secularization, which is essentially a survey of the sociological literature on the subject.

Among the congregations analysed are some chapels that are on their death bed. These have generally suffered erosion of the community base and close-knit family allegiances that formerly sustained them. Common problems such as the loss of young people to higher education and movement of key families to the suburbs are exacerbated for Welsh chapels by linguistic decline. Diminishing and ageing congregations find the cost of maintaining buildings an increasing and eventually unsupportable burden. The situation is not helped by the steadfast refusal to back ecumenical ventures.

Against this gloomy picture are set two different examples. One is of an Anglican parish which has recovered from sharp decline caused by unsuitable ministerial appointments and now appears to be holding its own. Even here, though, the outlook for the future is questionable given the age profile of the membership and the probable inability to support a full-time clergyman in future. The other example is an independent evangelical fellowship. The rate of growth and spread of ages in the fellowship are both impressive. Even so, it is noted that the membership is overwhelmingly from the affluent middle-class and that a significant proportion of the members came as transfers from other evangelical churches.

The author suggests that ‘suburban religion’ is now the dominant mode of Christian expression in Wales, even though the majority of churches and chapels are in rural areas. The congregations that are growing significantly tend to be new independent evangelical fellowships. It is depressing to observe that, although these ostensibly demonstrate the kind of enthusiasm associated with the great Welsh Revivals, they are in fact heavily Anglicised and middle-class in character.

Lionel Madden

It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgement should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.

Gellir defnyddio’r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatad Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.

Gwybodaeth Bellach:
Politics and Society in Wales series
Religion, Secularization and Social Change in Wales
Congregational Studies in a Post-Christian Society
Paul Chambers
pp x244 234x156mm paperback December 2004
ISBN 0-7083-1884-3
Contents
Since the high-water mark of the 1904 Welsh revival, religious belief and practice in Wales have been in gradual decline. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Welsh religious institutions are facing an increasingly uncertain future, but a future that nevertheless remains open.
Much has been written on social, economic and political change in modern Wales but relatively little attention has been given to the place of religion in contemporary Welsh society. Despite the historically high profile of religion in Wales, many religious institutions are now struggling to maintain themselves in what can only be characterized as a post-Christian landscape, where a culture of customary religious obligation is increasingly being superseded by a culture of choice and personal autonomy in religious matters. Marking the centenary of the last great religious revival in Wales, this volume seeks to explore the relationship between secularization and organized religion through a detailed study of the mechanisms of decline and growth as they affect the churches and chapels and their personnel. Throughout, the author seeks to relate these issues to the wider social, economic and cultural changes occurring in Wales and to recent theoretical developments within the sociology of religion. Written with the general reader as well as the academic in mind, this lucid, lively and informative account of religious change will be of interest to sociologists, students, religious professionals and all those with an interest in the future health of Christianity in modern societies.
Paul Chambers is a Sociologist of Religion and Research Fellow at the Centre for Civil Society Studies, University of Glamorgan, Wales, and is the author of several articles on congregational studies, religion and identity and the relationship between civil society, faith groups and politics.
Contents
1. Introduction
A brief history of religion in Wales
Secularisation and Wales
The structure of this volume
2. Secularisation in Western Societies
Religious decline – the evidence for Britain
Institutional Decline – facts and figures
Religion – believing without belonging
Summary
The Secularisation Thesis – an overview
Defining Secularisation
Secularisation – a contested thesis
Conceptualising secularisation
Summary
Theories of secularization and social and religious change
Secularisation – the Wilsonian perspective
Secularisation – universal process or historically contingent Pattern?
Relocating religion – secularization and the world of Individual meaning
Secularisation – a multi-dimensional concept?
Summary
Religion and the post-modern world
Secularisation and supply side models
Summary
Conclusions
3. Social and Religious Change in Swansea
The city and its people
Religion in Swansea
Religion in the recent past
The numerical health of churches
Anglicans and Roman Catholics
Nonconformity
Welsh medium Free Churches
English medium Free Churches
The evangelical churches
Summary
Social, economic and cultural change and its effects on the mainstream churches
Patterns of growth and decline among evangelical churches
Relations between the churches
Church and community
Church culture and social change
The Churches: prospect and change
4. The End of the Line
The English Baptist story
Other voices
Secularisation and social and religious change
5. Turning the clock back
Origins
An evangelical sea change
Giving confidence back to the people
Religion, community and identity
Periphery and fringe
Turning the clock back
6. Invisibility
Maestref Baptist Church
Origins and recent history
The congregation
A challenge to change?
Resistance to change
Invisibiilty
Facing the future
7. Setting goals for growth
Westside evangelical church
Origins and recent history
The congregation
Core members
Periphery
Local community relations
Managing change
Some leadership concerns
Relations with other evangelical churches
Setting goals for growth
8. Understanding church growth and decline
The churches and socio-economic and cultural change
A provisional church typology
Church growth and decline; ecological, social and cultural Factors
The churches and their social environment
Churches and mission in late-modern society
Social closure, cultural identity and social networks
Understanding church growth and decline
Facing the Future
Bibliography
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