The ARCS project – the original theological action research project

The ARCS (Action Research Church and Society) project was a six year project 2006-2010, at Heythrop College, University of London, in collaboration with the Oxford Centre for Ecclesiology and Practical Theology, Ripon College Cuddesdon. It worked with 14 church based organisations, using theological action research as a methodology for theological reflection on and for practice.

The ARCS project had as its focus the ad extra or outward looking work of dioceses, parishes and faith-based agencies, mainly working in London. Methodological outcomes are reported in Talking About God in Practice (Cameron et al., 2010).

Project PartnerPrincipal FocusPrincipal Aim of the Research
Catechesis and evangelisation in parishes using a variety of media To explore how CaFE resources equip participants and parishes for evangelization and renewal.
Youth 2000
Catholic youth retreats and prayer groups for young peopleTo reflect upon the practice and theology of the Youth 2000 retreat and how it enables conversion to Christ.
RC Diocese of Portsmouth
Stewardship in parishes/pastoral areasTo describe and reflect upon the practice and theology of the Stewardship Pilots with a view to influencing full implementation in Pastoral Areas.
RC Archdiocese of Westminster faith formation at deanery levelTo examine the effectiveness of adult faith formation at deanery level and its role in evangelisation
Housing Justice

CARIS Islington
A national homelessness charity, supporting a cold weather shelter parish networkTo reflect theologically on he impact of one Churches Cold Weather Shelter on parish life, focussing on a Catholic and Anglican parish.
CofE St Mary’s Parish Church
St Mary’s Alpha CourseTo explore the impact of the Alpha Course.
CofE Diocese of Southwark www.southwark.anglican.orgSocial Responsibility NetworkTo carry out enhanced theological reflection upon key themes in London.
Westminster Justice and Peace Commission
Diocese of Westminster Justice and Peace Commission
Justice and peace in parish lifeTo reflect theologically on the impact of justice and peace work in one Roman Catholic parish, focussing specifically on fair trade.
Cafod use of Catholic Social Teaching by Cafod staffTo strengthen the organizational capacity of Cafod in its use of Catholic Social Teaching
London Jesuit Volunteers, Mount Street Jesuit Centre
London Jesuit Centre
Providing community placements for volunteers with action-reflection modelTo strengthen the organizational capacity of LJV to enable other organizations to replicate the LJV ‘Action-Contemplation-Community’ volunteer model.
CofE Messy Church

Emmanuel Church, Croydon
DiscipleshipTo reflect on whether and how messy church is making disciples of Christ
CofE I-Church
The Gatehouse Home – The Gatehouse (
Online theological reflection To explore how theological reflection can improve online pastoral care for bereaved pet owners.

Related Material & Publications

ARCS Housing Justice Reflections for Cycle Two. July 26th 2009.

Watkins, C. and Shepherd, B. (2014) The Challenge of ‘Fresh Expressions’ to Ecclesiology: Reflections from the Practice of Messy Church. Ecclesial Practices, 1.1, pp.92-110