Justin Beaumont, one of Europe’s leading experts on how faith-based social services are impacting cities, brought over twenty students and two colleagues to join A Journey through NYC religions to explore postsecular New York City. It was A Journey Workshop’s first visit from an overseas university.
The group from University of Groningen in the Netherlands joined up with A Journey at The Bowery Mission last Wednesday morning. James Macklin, Director of Outreach at the mission, guided the group through The Bowery Mission’s work with stops at the cafeteria, kitchen, chapel, administrative offices, men's dormitory, medical dispensary, and rooftop garden. Various mission personnel joined us at times to discuss their roles. At the conclusion Melissa Kimiadi and Pauline Dolle, both from A Journey through NYC religions, discussed the role of faith-based social programs in the postsecular city and A Journey's methods of sympathetic objectivity. The students were fired up during the Q & A and asked insightful questions.
Beaumont has just published with his colleagues Working Faith: faith-based communities involved in justice which describes how faith is the prime motivation for an organized response to social and political needs in different European
contexts. He has also published the well-regarded books Exploring the Postsecular and Postsecular Cities. Beaumont and an English colleague Chris Baker have promoted research to explore “the public resurgence of religion” as “one of the defining features of this century,which has not continued the modernist and secularized trajectory assumed during the latter half of the 20th century.” Religious folk are large contributors to democratic movements and social progress around the world. Of course, there are also undemocratic, inhumane forms of religious activity. Will our response be to try to suppress both democratic religious progressives and religious authoritarians? Does not this weaken the prospects for democratic progress?
Journey Workshops teach basic information about postsecular New York City and how the magazine has gathered its data and produced stories. The workshops run from a half-day to a week in length. A Journey has hosted workshops for Columbia University School of Journalism, Bethel University, Colgate University, NYCAMs and The Masters School. The best work of the students is featured in the online magazine.
Afterwards, Macklin invited everyone to have lunch downstairs in the cafeteria and talked and sang resonantly about his life with the hymn "Your grace and mercy brought us through." (The Bowery Mission offers free meals three times a day, 365 days a year, to anyone in need.) The group ate side by side with the homeless and hungry men and women who frequent The Bowery's services. An Indian American family marched through the cafeteria during the meal with a large chocolate cake. The mother wanted to share the celebration of her birthday with the homeless and needy. Terry, a former cocaine addict currently enrolled in The Bowery's one year residential recovery program, joked that he has gained 50 pounds since he first arrived at the mission. It was a very encouraging experience for our team and guests!