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"If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? ....If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else?" (Matt 5:46-47)
What does it take to be a good neighbour at a time of polarisation and division?
Let’s be clear: the Common Good is not a utopian ideal to be imposed by one group upon another. The Common Good is built in relationship: it requires listening. Properly understood it transcends left and right: it cannot be sectarian. We are not all meant to think the same. Intelligent people can come to different conclusions.
Good neighbours build Common Good by respecting each others' different circumstances and interests, and find ways of working constructively together. They have a reconciliation instinct that puts people, families and communities before ideology. Good neighbours have the courage to be constructive while others protest; mix with those who their own crowd rejects; maintain independence of mind; locate news from a range of sources; subvert social media algorithms that drive deeper echo chambers; resist the comforting appeal of virtue signalling. The Common Good is not showy.
In this edition we highlight examples of this reconciliation instinct at work across the churches - in communities, business, financial inclusion, relationship building.
T4CG news in brief
We are excited that Calling People of Goodwill our new pocket book exploring what the Bible has to say about the Common Good, is now at design stage: it will be published in April by Bible Society • We are pleased to be a partner in ‘Faith 2017: working together for the common good’, a six month schools and community groups initiative in North Liverpool which includes an informal trial of our Common Good Schools toolkit • The latest keynote given by our Director, Jenny Sinclair was Good Neighbours and the Common Good (click to download) • T4CG's working groups are developing resources which we hope to share later this year • We will have a new website and a new logo in the Spring - watch this space • Our development plan is underway – if you can support us financially please get in touch •
What's going on
To make sense of a fast changing and complex landscape, we try to source information for you from a range of sources (click on pink links):
"Donald Trump’s election reflects a desire for change and a rejection of a failed political establishment" – writes John Daniel Davidson in the Guardian. Meanwhile Michael Sandel observes that the "establishment elites are now confronting the consequences of their failure to address the big questions people care about" and Robert Hardman in the Daily Mail describes Davos as "The world’s grandest echo chamber."
In 'Life Without Armour', Brendan O’Neill says people are falling to pieces because we've replaced solidarity and community with identity and individualism. And John Milbank looks at the factors “that provoked an altogether unexpected populist reaction” in this piece on rights, the centrality of relationships in human life and the new intolerance.
For a well informed briefing on understanding factors around hate crime and far right extremism in the UK, watch this video of a Home Affairs Select Committee, especially the evidence given by Professor Matthew Goodwin.
It is a highly complex picture - a paradigm shift unfolding across the West.
In the UK, our own ground is shifting and as we have anticipated we can see the old left and right are being reshaped. With the opposition in difficulty, it is essential to understand what drives Theresa May’s approach: clearly staking out some of the the new post-liberal territory while indicating a definite change in attitude from her predecessors - as explained in this New Statesman interview.
The US context is of course quite different. We should heed this warning on how not to respond to populism by Andrés Miguel Rondón in the Washington Post drawing on his experience in Venezuela: “Don’t feed polarisation, disarm it….whole generations were split in two. A sense of shared culture was wiped out. …Show concern, not contempt, for the wounds of those who brought him to power.” As Rondon says, to be effective, you first need to understand the worldview behind the new administration. For this reason, we include here a link to the now famous interview with White House Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon at the Vatican’s Human Dignity Institute in 2014. Gideon Rachman in the FT writes that “the polemic over the US ‘Muslim ban’ will not be an isolated event. On the contrary, it is a foretaste of the future of politics in the West.”
As hysteria takes hold in some quarters, Ian Geary recommends contemplation in a world of reaction. Clinging on to activism or to the comfort of an old position may betray that deep fear in all of us, that others will see one’s weakness, a response which may deepen divides, as Jack Wakefield reflects here with some humility.
The Dean of Washington National Cathedral said "...we can have no convening authority if those with whom we disagree only see a turned back or are met with condescension or derision." It is surprising what we can learn when estranged parties listen to each other – worth a read to see what happened when Mary Beard and Arron Banks went for lunch.
Given the circumstances then, our best response is to be good neighbours in our own communities, in business, in organisations, in international relations, to refuse to have contempt for those who take a different view and take steps wherever we can to encourage that reconciliation instinct rather than a tribal response - to build a common life. The Common Good is built through relationships.
Our regular snapshot overview of common good activity across the churches
Serving the community as an outward facing church - being good neighbours - there is so much going on in so many different sectors and across different traditions. With more collaboration this work can make even more of an impact.
There is a lot of talk about ‘a church for the poor and of the poor’ but how many churches really understand what’s involved? The National Estate Churches Network know this territory well: find out more in their newsletter and learn how housing estate ministry is becoming a focus for policy within the C of E and other traditions.
Churches are stepping up across the country to host refugees through the government’s community sponsorship scheme. Click here for the official guidance and here to learn about ForRefugees which offers support and training for churches. You may also be interested in Refugee tales, their 11 mile walk, and their creative campaign against the indefinite detention of refugees, asylum seekers and immigration detainees.
“When I heard about the community land trust, it was a no-brainer.” Has your church explored whether you could help to create permanently affordable housing? Find out more here at the National Community Land Trust Network.
How many churches you know lie empty for much of the week? Read Assets Not Burdens, a new report from The Centre for Theology and Community on how church buildings and property can help you serve your community.
What is the church recognised for? Rituals and old buildings? Or persistence, relationality, hospitality, community, hopefulness, trust, local commitment, unconditional acceptance, Love of God? Doing Good, the latest report from the think tank Theos on their tenth anniversary, looks at how the Church is changing.
Given the complex connections between debt, homelessness, poverty, family breakdown and addiction, who in the churches is at the coalface supporting people who are struggling? We learned that professional couple counselling by the Marriage Care network (23% of whose clients are in poverty) is delivered via 700 highly trained volunteers across the country. Most are rooted in Catholic parishes although 75% of their client base is non-Catholic. Find out more here.
Revd Sarah Lunn, a local vicar in Cumbria who looks after 12 remote agricultural parishes, is working alongside her local GP, lending a 'Listening Ear' to people suffering from bereavement, isolation or anxiety. She says "It is all about trust...the vicar is not just for those who go to church. I’m the vicar for everybody.”
Similarly debt counselling delivered by trained volunteers in the Christians Against Poverty network - see The Freedom Report - shows the scale of debt advice being given and the positive impact of building resilience. For a wider context on financial inclusion activity see the latest newsletter from the Community Investment Coalition.
As activity steps up to negotiate post Brexit trade deals, CAFOD has released International Trade for the Common Good, a paper urging government to protect the interests of the poorest communities at home and abroad.
A ‘Love Your Neighbour’ campaign from Near Neighbours in Birmingham is promoting reconciliation, including a recent ‘Week of Kindness’. They are also running Catalyst, a programme for young people between 16-30 – starting soon in West London and Nottingham.
When a group of churches came together and joined with other local groups to form Brighton and Hove Befriending Coalition, they recognised “we all have things to learn…befriending can change the lives of both the befriender and the person they visit."
Church Urban Fund has a helpful article on how to start a social action initiative in your community with with an Asset-Based approach; they have also produced a webinar on Social Enterprise - Finding a sustainable business model for social action featuring Kate Welch, CEO of Social Enterprise Acumen CIC.
The Churches Mutual Credit Union is now stronger as the Catholic Church joins the initiative along with the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Methodist Church, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Church in Wales and the United Reformed Church. Click here to find out how your church can get involved.
LifeSavers is a Church Urban Fund financial education programme for primary schools (including half day teacher training): includes classroom resources and credit union-run school savings clubs. Find out more at www.lifesavers.co.uk.
Inspiration for Lent
Read Pope Francis' statement given on the World day of Peace “…we realise that we are a people, that we belong, that only within a community, within a family, can we as persons find the 'warmth' that enables us to grow in humanity, and not merely as objects to consume and be consumed”.
Listen to this interview from Jesus Culture in two parts with Pete Greig, founder of 24/7 Prayer. In the first part Pete talks about mission, leadership and framing organisations around core values (the interview starts at 21 minutes in). In the second part he talks about unity, ecumenism and the poor (starts at just over 5 minutes in).
A joint statement made by the Catholic-Orthodox Forum held in Paris in January said: “We proclaim the centrality of the human person and of its dignity created in the image of God….Christianity is a marker of identity that does not deny others their human rights, but seeks to cooperate with all for the realisation of the common good.” To read the whole statement, click here.
Download easy to use 40 Acts Challenge resources for each day of Lent - for churches, small groups, families, youth and schools at https://40acts.org.uk/
In a moving interview in which he tells "how easy it was to fall in love with Jesus", actor Andrew Garfield relates how he did a year of Ignatian Exercises to prepare for his role in Scorcese’s extraordinary film, Silence. A masterpiece exploring the reality of God in spite of the persecution faced by Christians in feudal Japan, it also bears deep resonance for Christianity today both in the West and the Middle East. You will find resources for Lent at www.ignatianspirituality.com/lent.
Click here to go to our listings page with details of events relating to the Common Good. Current listings include events from: Student Christian Movement, Centre for Enterprise, Markets & Ethics, Jubilee Centre, Churches Together Britain and Ireland, Newman Society, Joint Public Issues Team, A Blueprint for Better Business, Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society, Newman House Chaplaincy, Taizé Community, Eden Network, National Justice and Peace Network, Greenbelt, Gather… and many others. Please tell us of events you would like us to list.
Thank you (for reading this far). Please send us feedback and tell us what you think. For each edition we immerse ourselves in different sectors and traditions to bring you a flavour of our helicopter view; see archived items in our Further Study pages.
Very best wishes to you, your family and for your work.
Together for the Common Good
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