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Faith-life, Church, and Institution

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Traditionally in European culture the institutional Church was a major presence in terms of the ordering of society. Apart from the explicit religious activity that was connected with the sacramental life of the Church, its presence was experienced in a whole series of areas, which included education, healthcare, community building, social cohesion, sport, and indeed, a range of other social activities. The twentieth century, however, has witnessed a radical ‘secularisation’ of many of these sectors. This means that the institutional Church per se has witnessed a huge diminishing of its direct and explicit presence (and with this its power) in the various networks that constitute our culture. And this is an on-going process with healthcare and education being two embattled areas at present. In this paper, I’d like to reflect on these changing dynamics and suggest some ideas that you might find helpful in terms of understanding our current situation.