The Good City: Living Together Differently

July 19 – August 1, Birmingham, United Kingdom

In 2008 we met in Birmingham, United Kingdom, one of two major English cities likely soon to have an “ethnic minority, majority.” Our particular concept this year was emergent norms of life in multi-confessional, multi-ethnic, and thus global cities–hence our title, “The Good City: Living Together Differently.”

“This summer school has been one of the strangest and most powerful experiences I ever had. For a long time now I have been grappling with my (latent) faith and my ambivalence towards my career path, without stopping to think that they are intimately connected.”
(Fellow, 2008)

The “good city” is an image that goes back millennia in the theological and humanistic speculation of all the major civilizations. These historical and cultural resonances are most relevant today, in an age where the city is being redefined in new and contrasting ways the world over, not least in terms of demographic, religious, and ethnic diversities.

As Birmingham became a major industrial city in the 19th century, it also developed a tradition of religious non-conformity that became evident in its public life. The Quaker Cadbury family not only founded a famous confectionery business but also pioneered new ways of living in the nearby model factory village of Bournville, which was founded in 1900. The radical, but imperialist, social reformer Joseph Chamberlain was also prominent in shaping the city and founded the University of Birmingham, also in 1900. Today, Birmingham is still home to a significant manufacturing sector in addition to displaying the familiar indications of postmodernity, such as shopping malls and theme parks like Cadbury World. The University of Birmingham is one of the United Kingdom’s leading universities and the summer school concluded a year of activities on Faith and the City planned together with the Birmingham Faith Leaders Group.

2008 Local Host: University of Birmingham