Giving up indifference
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‘I’m not particularly religious. Lent seems meaningless to me, giving up sweets or alcohol. Until I heard Pope Francis’ idea of fasting from indifference towards others. This was a game changer for me’
Fasting is becoming widely practised, and it has a quality that seems to be able to transcend religion. But Francis adds a new spin. He challenges us to fast from indifference towards others. If we practice this in our workplaces, parishes and communities, we become 'islands of mercy in the midst of the sea of indifference.’ His emphasis is that fasting must never become superficial – he says it is only meaningful if the sacrifice causes a change of heart.
Getting to know ‘people who are not like me’ is a central to working for the Common Good. Disinterest, hardness of heart, prejudice, ignorance, lack of understanding and compassion for others’ circumstances or points of view: we might start by asking 'who am I indifferent to?' and explore why we are blind to others, or see them as irrelevant or as rivals - when we could be allies.
In each edition of this newsletter, we try to highlight some of the activity for the Common Good across the different Christian traditions. There is a quiet revolution going on. But despite the shared goal of human flourishing inspired by the Gospel, there is often a low level of awareness between the different denominations of each other's approaches. The potential of what we can do together to strengthen civil society is considerable. But to realise this, we may have to examine our indifference towards each other, and resolve to give it up. At least for Lent.
Welcome to the Together for the Common Good Newsletter.
click through to our events listings pages for events by our friends and partners - Christian Aid, Children's Society, Christians in Politics, Taize, ShareAction, Oasis, Las Casas, ResPublica, Gather, Evangelical Alliance, Romero Trust, Ridley Hall, EWDC, Student Christian Movement, Focolare, Church Urban Fund, Livability, Good Works and more click for details...
• a heads-up that T4CG will have a presence at St Michael's Cornhill in the City of London during the week leading up to Pentecost (keep an eye on our website for updates) • T4CG is the focus of an Italian teachers' conference in San Marino in late April • T4CG's Tim Livesey is among the speakers at a retreat called Faith in Work, in Cumbria in late April • see events listings
In what is now our Phase 3, we're excited to be working with clergy, laity, students, teachers, community groups and others to create helpful resources. This will take time: working in partnership takes longer but we believe in practising what we preach! We invest time building relationships, and we're increasingly being asked to contribute to others' initiatives, provide advice and make introductions. Our aim throughout is to act as a catalyst to encourage people of good will to work together across their differences, for the Common Good. The momentum around T4CG is growing so please get in touch if you can help us build our resources to meet demand. The T4CG project continues to unfold...
What's going on
Click on the pink links to access downloads, video, audio and articles
There is an understandable feeling in some parts of the faith-based and charity sectors that the financial world is indifferent to their concerns. However there are signs of hope, with increasing numbers of investors, many of whom are committed Christians (of different traditions), who have found creative ways in which city interests can align with the goal of human flourishing. Their pioneering actions are bringing about the transformation in the economy that others campaign for. Take a few minutes to learn about the Social Stock Exchange (the world’s first), and if you're involved in a charity or social enterprise, have a look round the new Good Finance website and learn how socially motivated finance and investment can help you.
The Blueprint Trust continues to work in the corporate field helping businesses find their purpose and serve society. With values rooted in Catholic social teaching, they are working with companies such as Vodafone, Unilever, the CBI, Centrica and others. They provide two-day immersion workshops for individuals from businesses that commit to align to the Blueprint Principles. Click here for details. T4CG is delighted to be included in this year's invitation-only conference (see videos and reports from previous conferences on their website).
Beyond the boardroom, there are exciting things going on at parish level. Since ToYourCredit started (from the Archbishop of Canterbury's Task Group - an initiative to create a fairer financial system focused on serving the whole community), payday lending has declined by 68%. Read their report and see how you can get involved - there are credit union branches in churches across the country, a Churches Mutual Credit Union for clergy, LifeSavers, a network of savings clubs in primary schools, and the Church Credit Champions Network. Churches are also acting as a vital link between people who are in debt and free debt counselling services. See how this fits into the wider context in the Community Investment Coalition's latest newsletter - a comprehensive overview of the efforts to build affordable finance.
The new EcoChurch initiative - integrating environmental responsibility with church and mission - is now up and running. Nominations are invited for the EcoChurch awards - see if your church meets the challenges - if not, see what you need to do. Speaking of awards, T4CG was delighted to be invited to help judge Premier Radio's new 'Love Britain and Ireland Awards' - set up to recognise outstanding groups, projects and services that put Christian faith and love into action within communities. Click here to see the 6 categories - winners (from 580 nominations) will be announced on March 16.
In advance of its annual conference, Justice, Power and Responsibility: How Can Democracy Work for the Common Good? (see our events listings), the National Justice and Peace Network's newsletter features an article by T4CG's Jenny Sinclair: 'Mercy and the Common Good: our responsibility.'
Our friends at Church Urban Fund have been working with Livability to produce Building Kingdom Communities: the prophetic role of the church in community engagement. This new report draws practical implications from the threads raised in the previous report, Fullness of Life Together. A conversation event will take place in Leeds on 21 April (see our events listings). The development of lay leadership at parish level is essential for an outward-facing church: Hexham Diocese are creating an interesting post for a Lay Coordinator Development Officer as part of their 'Forward Together in Hope' programme - please alert anyone you know who may be interested.
Building community was the theme of Hope16: Working Together for the Common Good a festival initiative by Alsop High School, involving hundreds of children and local people in Walton, Liverpool. Local press loved it, as did Liverpool Diocese. We were proud to be a catalyst as well as one of its planning partners. T4CG's Jenny Sinclair and Hilary Russell were among the guest speakers - read their talks here and here.
Las Casas Institute is looking into the structural reality of poverty in the UK in a major conference in Leeds on March 5 (speakers include Timothy Radcliffe and Julia Unwin - for more see our events listings). The Church Urban Fund and the University of Edinburgh’s Divinity School have published a report, Creating Conversations: exploring community-based responses to poverty, following their series of conversations (listen to audio here) bridging the gap between academics, clergy and practitioners.
Like other popes before him (such as Leo XIII and Pius XI) Pope Francis says the economy has to serve society, not the other way around. His argument echoes closely with the big idea of economist Karl Polanyi - you may find this article in The Atlantic worth a read. In any case, we should always be alert to the detail, and consider what economists of all persuasions have to say. For example Professor Philip Booth, in this article on the IEA blog, examines Francis' concerns about the impact of financial speculation on food prices, pointing out that 'there is no net gain to speculators from prices going up, just a different distribution of gains’. (Philip has an essay in the T4CG book).
Communities and churches across the UK are mobilising to help resettle the Syrian refugees as they arrive between now and 2020. You can help by building a resettlement group: details via the National Refugee Welcome Board, the CItizens UK latest newsletter and ForRefugees' resources too. Caritas Social Action Network helped to raise awareness of plight of people in the so-called Calais Jungle, and in January facilitated a conversation between British and French politicians.
As we near the EU Referendum, take a look at political theology at its best from Jonathan Chaplin at KLICE. You may also be interested in a conference coming up, organised by T4CG's Andrew Bradstock, Keeping Faith with the EU, at his new TRiPL Centre in Winchester on April 9 (see events listings). Meanwhile Philip Booth and Diego Zuluaga on the Reimagining Europe blog are using Catholic social teaching to explore whether subsidiarity needs to take its rightful place in the EU. We have a piece by Patrick Riordan SJ on the role of the Catholic church in Europe’s common good, and on the Thinking Faith blog Patrick has published Greece: Solidarity and subsidiarity in action and Whatever Happened to Solidarity? Finally, watch Phillip Blond, Director of ResPublica, in this TV clip discussing sovereignty and power: he draws attention to the stark lack of leadership and shows how Britain could lead, but isn't.
The inimitable Narrative Calvinist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Marylinne Robinson knows how to articulate hope in a time of fear. This moving, affecting conversation is worth listening to. Click here.
Finally, we enjoyed seeing ++Justin Welby and Cardinal Nichols in a happy photo together at one of their regular meetings. Isn't it about time all church leaders followed their example? And, as the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 approaches, read how, for the first time in 450 years, a Catholic archbishop celebrated Vespers in the Chapel Royal, alongside his Anglican brother.
If you're curious about T4CG's Twitter activity, click here for a round up of our timeline in Jan-Feb 2016.
We do our best to bring you a wide range of updates but of course this is just a flavour. Do let us know if there is something we could include next time.
Some reading for you
A new review from Elaine Graham, on our book (Eds Sagovsky/McGrail), Together for the Common Good: Towards a National Conversation
A new review from Elizabeth Welch, on Hilary Russell's book, A Faithful Presence: working together for the common good
'Living with Difference': Time for a Constructive Christian Engagement' Jonathan Chaplin does us a huge favour here with a forensic, patient analysis of the controversial Commission on Religion and Belief in British Public Life (CORAB) report. Rightly, Jonathan says its shortcomings are no reason to dismiss it altogether, that the issue is too urgent and too important to ignore.
Pope Francis on 'fasting from indifference towards others'
Kingdom at Work 7th Bulletin from David Clark, focuses on a collection of contributions on Christian theology and the economy.
T4CG is referenced in CoVi's 2016 yearbook, showing how far Common Good Thinking has come, not only in the faith-based sector but in policy discussions too.
How to Prevent: Extremism and Policy Options from the Tony Blair Faith Foundation - a report offering 'a full spectrum response' for policy makers.
God and the EU: Faith in the European Project, edited by Jonathan Chaplin and Gary Wilton
Together for the Common Good: towards a national conversation Contributors: Maurice Glasman, Clifford Longley, Jonathan Chaplin, Brian Griffiths, Jon Wilson, Tehmina Kazi, Andrew Bradstock, Anna Rowlands, Esther Reed, Patrick Riordan, Phillip Booth, Sam Burgess and Malcolm Brown. (Eds Nicholas Sagovsky & Peter McGrail). For free Study Guide and further information click here.
A Faithful Presence: working together for the common good by Hilary Russell. A practical and accessible book, to inspire and equip everyone working to strengthen civil society. Tracing the thinking underlying T4CG it also contains case studies and examples of how churches are working together through social action, service provision, community building, prayer and advocacy.
The T4CG project is continually evolving, and reflecting this, our people change from time to time. Those joining the core group at this point include Andrée Blake and Kanyin Sanusi, and stepping out is Dr Maria Power, who joins Good Works with our best wishes. As of last week we are very fortunate to have Clare Purtill working with us, our first 3 month intern.
As ever the project is Spirit-led: the love of God and the grace of Jesus Christ continue to nourish everything we do, alongside the continuing inspiration of the Sheppard Worlock partnership. Thank you for being on this journey with us - we hope you find this newsletter helpful. Please think of us as we grow our resources, and don't hesitate to get in touch if you have an idea to discuss - after all, we're working Together for the Common Good.
Wishing you a good Lent,
Together for the Common Good
© T4CG 2016