It's all about love
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June 18 saw the publication of Pope Francis' encyclical, Laudato Si', gracefully articulating the interconnectedness of every aspect of life, humanity and nature. Representing a step change in Catholic social thought, it has also been received as ground-breaking among other faith traditions and secular environmental groups. It is in effect the message of Jesus addressed to all humankind, and delivered in the tone of an inclusive spirituality. Challenging the prevailing paradigm, he invites us to engage in 'honest debate' and move from 'global indifference' to 'live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously' for the common good. (See below for a link to download Laudato Si' among our suggested summer reading).
Whatever the limitations of institutional religion, the spirit of Jesus is all about love. Last weekend, we brought political thinkers from left and right together in a T4CG fringe debate at the General Synod in York. We discussed the links between faith, mission, money and markets and explored how a shared paradigm of love, and the power of the common good, can transcend the old tribal divides and lead to more constructive language. Sponsored by our friends CCLA and filmed by CoVi, this was a fascinating debate. Videos of the speeches are now online - click here to watch.
The influential Conservative, and founder of The Good Right, Tim Montgomerie, said 'the quality of relationships needs to be at the core of our political vision', that the state needs to regain a 'loving father compassion' rather than a 'feed and forget' approach. He suggested the church could 'help the new politics by promoting relationships vs materialism.' He revealed that 'the Conservative party is at a tipping point - it realises something is wrong with the 1979 settlement.'
There was much common ground with the founder of Blue Labour, Lord Maurice Glasman, who while rooted in the Jewish tradition, is a long-time advocate of Catholic social thought. He recommended 'honesty, love, family, reconciliation, community, faithfulness and incentives to vocation and virtue to bring transformation for the common good....and warned that any settlement that demonises the rich and the market, and that doesn't involve the leadership of the poor will fail'.
Waiting for a taxi in the rain, we met Archbishop Justin Welby walking to his next session. Tim Montgomerie thanked him for the moving talk he had given a few days earlier to a packed lunchtime meeting of News UK journalists. The following week he contributed to an important debate in the House of Lords moved by Lord Alton on violations of Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. A broad range of distinguished voices underlined that if the 'soft power' paradigm of love and human dignity is to defeat the brutal forces of hate, then an alliance to secure the right to religious freedom (to believe or not to believe) between non-fundamentalist faiths and atheist allies, is more urgent than ever.
A bumper T4CG newsletter this month! This is because we will be taking a complete break over August. You will hear from us again in September. After the summer break, the T4CG project will be piloting common good training sessions for C of E clergy, and T4CG Steering Group member Hilary Russell will publish Faithful Presence, a short accessible book coming out of her research into collaboration in faith-based social action. Later in the autumn, we hope to be able to release our Common Good Conversation Toolkit and are looking forward to contributing to Alsop High School's Hope 2016 programme in Walton, Liverpool. We will continue to advise groups who want to host conversations prompted by the T4CG book and funding permitting, we will produce a short animated film. We are continuously learning from others and want to share this with you. Encouraging relationships across different sectors and traditions remains central to our purpose.
Supporting the T4CG project
To meet the growing momentum around T4CG we need to move from a mainly pro bono approach to a funded model, while still remaining small, agile and open to change. For this shift in our governance, our efforts to persuade the Charity Commission to grant us charitable status continue, and we are aiming to secure a modest level of core funding, just enough to make our work sustainable. If you are in a position to support the project and would like to discuss this, please get in touch. If the project appears robust, this is due to tenacious commitment; meanwhile our resources are in fact quite insecure. With more stable support, we will be able to continue our work into the coming year, and do more, such as respond to the requests we receive to convene common good conversations on particular issues, and pick up again with our cross party work in Parliament.
Laudato Si' (Praise be to you: On care of our common home) is an extraordinary, wide-ranging communication from the Holy Father to all humanity. It rewards repeated reading and is a useful resource ahead of the Sustainable Development Summit at the UN in New York on 25 September, where Pope Francis will address heads of state and government who are meeting to discuss the Millennium Development Goals. We also highly recommend his earlier letter, if you haven't already read it: Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) which includes critiques of an economy that excludes, and of serious issues in his own church, alongside a positive vision for how ordinary people of goodwill can achieve transformation in the world. Both texts are highly accessible, written in his own words.
Together for the Common Good: Towards a National Conversation - a new collection of 13 essays exploring how different traditions view the common good, revealing common ground. Contributors include leading thinkers from across different political persuasions, Christian denominations, Jewish, Muslim and secular traditions. If you're looking for a definition of the common good you won't find it here - because the common good is not a utopian dream to be imposed, but is more like a practice, applying human principles, through dialogue and collaboration, across our differences.
Who is My Neighbour? - this letter from the House of Bishops to the people and parishes of the C of E is worth studying whatever your belief tradition. Still a valuable reference document, it is a a profound contribution by the Church to the political life of our nation and envisions a way forward for the common good, and is a remarkable interweaving of Catholic social thought into Anglican thinking.
Events coming up
Please let us know of events you would like to share and we will try to include them on our website's event listings page. The autumn is going to be very busy - so for now, we would like to flag up just a few events we think may be of interest to you:
30 July 5.30-7pm, a meeting to establish the first UK local group of Economy for the Common Good. York Bridge (Regent´s Park), London NW1. Open to all. Information at their website here. All enquiries by email, click here.
24 September, Social Enterprise, Work and Well Being Conference, Birmingham. Bringing together the housing association sector with the social enterprise sector, to explore how social enterprises can be used to improve lives, secure apprenticeships and build communities. Discuss business models, develop partnerships and work together to put theory into practice. Speakers include: Peter Holbrook, Social Enterprise UK; Kirsty McHugh, ERSA; Melanie Mills, Big Society Capital; Ross Fraser, HouseMark; Matt Leach, HACT.
5 November: Money Matters - The Church Urban Fund annual conference on financial exclusion, Manchester. Keynote speakers: Sir Hector Sants, Prof Karen Rowlingson and Canon Dr Angus Ritchie. Very practical hands-on conference with workshops on: Building financial capability, Providing debt advice, Supporting credit unions and community finance, Starting conversations about money, Campaigning for justice in the finance system, Creating a community hub.
2 - 4 November 2015: The Spirit of Catholic Renewal: Signs, Sources, and Calling, Ushaw College, Durham. Major international conference featuring Stanley Hauerwas, Timothy Radcliffe, OP, HE Cardinal Walter Kasper, Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator, SJ, Tina Beattie, Myriam Wijlens, Paul D. Murray, Anna Rowlands, Janet Soskice, Sr Elizabeth Johnson, Eamon Duffy, Karen Kilby, Clifford Longley.
29 April - 2 May 2016: Faith in Work A residential retreat over the Bank Holiday weekend, hosted by the Augustinian Community at Boarbank Hall in Cumbria. Jointly organised by Nick Franchini of Good Works and Dr Maria Power of Together for the Common Good. Speakers include Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Dr Kathryn Mannix. The event brings together professionals from across industry and public service to explore how best to restore our faith in work and will, we hope, be the first of a series of gatherings for those of 'like-mind'. All enquiries to email@example.com
What's going on
It's important to celebrate and highlight where and how the common good is being built by ordinary people in local communities, across different sectors and in different ways. But do we all know what each other are doing? How much more effective could we be if we moved out of our 'enclosures' and practised the common good together across our different traditions and political perspectives? From cultivating relationships between estranged groups, to encouraging resilience and leadership in vulnerable communities, from re-humanising systems that have lost their soul, from building purpose in enterprise and dignity in work, to re-shaping the economy, from re-balancing power relationships to cultivating personal responsibility and vocation: there are many expressions. Just a flavour of what's going on:
Blueprint for Better Business goes from strength to strength building support for purposeful business in in the corporate world. Click here for their new website and to read their principles
The Centre for Theology and Community and Housing Justice, have come together to produce a report on housing and homelessness, Our Common Heritage, a new report exploring the shared heritage of churches and housing associations, suggesting how partnerships can be strengthened to tackle our housing crisis for the common good. Full report and summary at the CTC website.
ResPublica's new report In Professions We Trust: Fostering virtuous practitioners in teaching, law and medicine calls for teachers, lawyers, and medics to be reconnected with their vocation.
Joseph Rowntree Foundation have just published What do low-paid workers think would improve their working lives? The report explores the realities of low-paid work; the challenges experienced by workers in the three sectors; ideas for improving work for low-paid workers that go beyond pay rises; and conclusions for employers of low-paid workers.
CSAN, the umbrella organisation for the 42 Catholic major social action charities, has produced The Impact of Welfare Reform reporting from their grassroots knowledge. Among their five constructive recommendations, they suggest the development of partnerships between local authorities and social action charities, including outreach visits and shared training between JobCentre Plus staff and local charities. The Welfare Reform Bill's second reading is on Monday 20 July.
The Living Wage Foundation's response to the recent Budget acknowledges a significant shift in the UK government attitude towards a commitment to a living wage, as expressed here by David Skelton MP. But since then, there has been criticism that it is a rebadging of the minimum wage, and therefore not a 'real living wage'. And in the interim until it takes effect, a dramatic reduction of tax credits threatens to backfire, with Frank Field MP warning here that 'the chancellor has hung out to dry 3m or so 'strivers' by making them worse off'.
Near Neighbours have produced an app to support their work bringing together local people in communities that are religiously and ethnically diverse. Near Neighbours helps to combat isolation and strengthen community, building relationships of trust and encouraging collaboration to improve local quality of life. Click here to get to the app
ShareAction's leadership in the responsible investment field continues with the publication of Realigning Interests, Reducing Regulations: a vision for reforming UK workplace pensions. They argue that regulation should focus on the establishment of market structures which provide appropriate incentives, rather than the fruitless attempt to control behaviour in the face of inappropriate commercial incentives.
The Quakers and Business Group have recently published a new edition of their excellent Good Business - Ethics at Work.
The Together Network, supports local churches working together to address poverty and related issues their neighbourhoods. There are Together Network groups across the country. Church Urban Fund supports TN's projects and is currently looking for research participants - can you help? They are looking for groups that are helping to build well-being and resilience in their communities. Click here to take part.
CSV (the Community Service Volunteer network) has re-branded as Volunteering Matters and their work focuses on young people, families, older people and disabled people. Worth exploring their website and current UK-wide programmes to identify potential areas for collaboration with your neighbourhood activities.
London Churches Social Action Group have produced their Common Voice on Migration materials for churches.
The B Corp movement is launching in the UK soon. This is a global network of companies and entrepreneurs who incorporate commitment to their communities, environment and employees into their business’ DNA. So far there are over 1,300 Certified B Corps in 41 countries and in over 60 industries. Click here to read about events this month and their launch in September.
Christian Aid's campaign against Tax Dodging includes resources for ordinary people and parishes to get involved. Click here for resources and pocket guide. As their CEO Loretta Minghella said at our debate at St Paul's: 'Just because it's legal, doesn't mean it's fine...'
The T4CG project is continually evolving, and now in its third phase there are some changes in personnel. Those stepping out of the core group at this time include our most recent Chair, Patrick Coldstream CBE, along with original members Nicholas Sagovsky and Peter McGrail, co-editors of the T4CG book. As ever, all former core members stay in touch, advise and collaborate. Our Anglican, Catholic and Free Church traditions and the project's original inspiration, the Sheppard Worlock partnership, continue to underpin everything we do and nourish our learning. Thank you for thinking or praying for us!
We hope you find this newsletter helpful. We're always open to suggestions so don't hesitate to contact us - after all, we're working Together for the Common Good.
The T4CG book
Other reviews are on our website on the T4CG Book page, including one from Nick Spencer of Theos and from 'ordinary reader' Wendy Quill. We also feature events prompted by the book, such as a recent debate in Winchester involving Lord Griffiths, Andrew Bradstock, Tehmina Kazi, Dave Landrum, Jenny Sinclair and Bishop Tim Dakin.
This book aims to be a conversation opener to inform and inspire a deeper quality of discussion about the common good.
Contributors: Lord Maurice Glasman, Clifford Longley, Lord Brian Griffiths, Dr Jon Wilson, Tehmina Kazi, Dr Jonathan Chaplin, Professor Andrew Bradstock, Dr Anna Rowlands, Professor Esther Reed, Dr Patrick Riordan SJ, Phillip Booth, Sam Burgess and Revd Dr Malcolm Brown.