Church Involvement in Education for Sustainability: Using Participatory Action Research to Design a Faith-Based Education for Sustainability Programme in a Christian Community, New Zealand
This study develops and analyses a faith-based education for sustainability (EFS) programme as a means of addressing the issue of climate change in an urban Christian community - St John's in the City, Presbyterian Church, Wellington, New Zealand. It also, explores a participatory design and practice process for an adult-focused community EFS programme within a Christian context. The outcome of the study may serve as a model of adult-focused community of EFS which can be used by other faith-based communities in New Zealand.
The critical approach, which is considered as an important approach to EFS, aims to achieve social change by fostering critical thinking in relation to sustainable issues. However, the so-called rhetoric-reality gap of critical approach causes difficulty for practicing the approach. As such, it was hoped that this study, informed by Freirian critical pedagogy, bridges the 'rhetoric-reality' gap of the critical approach in EFS practice.
The methodology of this research - participatory action research (PAR) - aims to empower participants by involving them as co-researchers in the research process. Combined with group discussion and in-depth individual interview, participatory method - diagramming was used as the main research method. The PAR methodology was proved effective for the faith-based EFS programme design and it was also represented a democratic EFS process in itself. Therefore, it informed the subsequent practice of the St John's programme that was designed by this research as an action research (AR) project and also functioned as a dialogical education programme. In the St John's programme, the participants as discursive subjects would gain freedom to critically enquire their relationships with God's world and with each other and would be facilitated to take realistic actions on sustainable issues associated with climate change through the critical enquiry.