As our initial research has moved forward, a consensus slowly developed about the direction for further work. Following the great research efforts on Maritime religious history during the 1980s and 1990s, the light of intellectual culture passed on. While considerable work on church history was done in other regions of the country, it is hard to think of any significant work on the Maritimes in the last ten years apart from Daniel Goodwin’s Into Deep Waters.
We have concluded that there is an opportunity to organize a major regional conference on the topic, “Maritime Religious Culture, Then and Now”. The pressing need is to make faith intelligible to the contemporary world, and to do so in such a way that the connections between faith and the cultural forms in which it is expressed are made plain.
Four thematic areas have been identified:
- political subsidiarity – being the most serious theoretical challenge to contemporary concepts of state sovereignty, makes claims for an alternative polity centred on the development of civil society, distinct from both the market and the state;
- social economics – built upon various strands of French, German, and English social thought, the Antigonish Movement was the strongest local effort to develop an alternative economic order, nurtured now by theoretical work on path dependence, preference formation, and social embeddedness;
- church history – George Rawlyk theorized that the dominance of the Baptists and Catholics in the Maritimes, and the strength of the Methodists in Ontario, made a difference in their respective takeup of capitalism and the related economic performance of each economy, but there has been little attempt to assess the merits of this hypothesis; and
- theology – phenomenological and existential theologies after the Second World War pushed back both Neo-Thomism and Barthian theologies, and led to a long period of tension between liberal and conservative factions following Vatican II. Does a recovery of Tubingen philosophy hold promise now for a reconciliation with a renewed neo-Thomism.
In the coming months, we will seek to build partnerships with other institutions who can help bring this initiative for a symposium and new research programme to fruition.