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“And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, if you only knew today what is needed for shalom! But for now it is hidden from your sight.” (Luke 19:41-48)
When events overtake the ability of governments to cope, people of goodwill need to step up. Our values of love, community and relationships are more relevant now than ever to build a social peace. What will the church be known for – rituals or relationships? Serving our own interests or building bridges? We have a responsibility to mix with those our own crowd rejects, to listen to, to suffer with. To build relationships where there is suspicion and mistrust. The term Shalom has a rich meaning in Hebrew: it means completeness, soundness, welfare, peace. Holy Week is a time to contemplate the beauty and tragedy of our world, celebrate, weep, and repent of our own indifference. Then, ask for the grace to understand 'what is needed for shalom' and take steps to put it into practice.
Scroll down for our latest set of stories about the common good in the churches, in communities, business, finance, relationship building... and don't miss our short video
T4CG news in brief
In Rebuilding the Broken Body, the lead feature in this week’s The Tablet, our founding director, Jenny Sinclair argues that the Church could be a blessing to our national community, but only if relationships are built with people who feel powerless and patronised. Click here to read the full article.
We are very excited that after over a year’s work by one of our ecumenical working groups, our new booklet will soon be published. Calling People of Goodwill will be on sale from 23 April via Bible Society. Until then details are embargoed: keep an eye on this page here.
Together for the Common Good is finally registered as a charity (No. 1172113) after over two years of trying. We are developing a number of other projects and over the coming months aim to build our capacity to cope with the increased momentum around our work. If you can help, please get in touch.
Watch our annual review video (click image to view):
What's going on
We bring you material from a range of sources:
“People left behind feel deprived of their place in the world, that no one values what they have to offer”. Listen to a podcast of Michael Sandel with typical clarity, at a major lecture at the LSE, ‘Capitalism, Democracy and the Public Good’, (Storify summary here). One of the key thinkers on the common good, he also led a riveting BBC radio debate on the dignity of work with people from Dagenham. Tellingly, between the two audiences, the greater expertise came from the Dagenham participants.
The bombing of Coptic Christian churches on Palm Sunday puts the forthcoming visit by Pope Francis to Egypt into sharp relief. In a recent visit to the Vatican with Cardinal Nichols and other British imams, Shayk Ibrahim Mogra urged the pope to speak out about the plight of persecuted Christians during his visit to Egypt, saying that ‘violence in the name of God is totally un-Islamic.’ Our header image is the oldest depiction of Christ and the disciples from the Coptic Museum, Cairo, Egypt.
Theresa May was described as ‘Our first Catholic Prime Minister’ in a typically provocative piece by Michael Gove in the Times. While her rhetoric did seem to have borrowed from Catholic Social Thought with a Blue Labour flavour, so far this is not filtering through to policy.
Tim Montgomerie’s view is that the May government’s approach is lacking in the ambition required to tackle the problems affecting our country. Our fellow citizens who are poor and vulnerable bear the brunt of systemic failures in areas such as social care, the housing crisis and Islamist radicalisation in prisons. Meanwhile, Toby Helmexpresses concern about the limited bandwidth in Whitehall to deal with the complexities of Brexit on top of increasingly challenging domestic and foreign policy.
Rather than helping ‘just about managing’ families, the changes to benefits, for example in child tax credits, are adding to pressures on parents in low income households and increasng the likelihood of family breakdown. The Children’s Society advises that around two thirds of the children affected by the new two-child limit will be from working families. Effects of the policy must be monitored closely. Meanwhile, 600,000 families are spending more on repaying problem debts than on food. Meanwhile, as Nick Cohen laments, the sorry state of the official opposition is a national disgrace.
The old orthodoxies of left and right have been in decline for some time, and feel increasingly dated. To better understand May’s efforts to engage with post-liberalism, read this article by Adrian Pabst. Areas of common ground are explored here in this appreciation of the life of Michael Novak, the American Catholic philosopher and diplomat. Novak, who died recently, held Catholic social thought as his method of discernment: although he said he was a ‘lifelong democrat’ he was not tribal, supporting certain Republican candidates from time to time. We are pleased to bring you his 2009 lecture, Social Justice: not what you think it is, as our latest Opinion Piece.
In the midst of political arguments over Brexit, Dave Landrum, Director of Advocacy at Evangelical Alliance, recommends keeping calm and taking a step back from the culture wars, and instead, find practical ways to foster a common good so that we can live together with our deepest differences.
People across the churches transforming society
Here is a flavour from different sectors and traditions.
Ryan Cook, community disciple and Chaplain to Liverpool University, shares a moving story about the impact a group of people can have on their neighbourhood with little resource: Things I’ve Learned from 2.5 Years of Opening Our Home on Monday Evenings.
The barriers of middle class church are an issue for churches who want to be genuinely a church for the poor and of the poor. Take a look at these practical and useful observations from Word on the Streets.
Social investment company Resonance is proving we can all play a part in sustainable ways to provide affordable housing, tackle homelessness and fund community asset projects. Their site has clear information on how to get into social impact investments, even on a modest level, starting with community share issues.
Read about the peer mentoring scheme supporting ex offenders run by the Cyrenians in Edinburgh. Supporting previous offenders into a more positive life, the mentoring is done by ex-offenders themselves. And Clean Sheet, which runs a 3-Step Pathway from Prison to Employment, is empowering local churches and employers to support prisoners and ex-offenders into the world of work.
The Asset Based Community Development approach is infectiously positive. It is also intensely practical and effective. Do read this blog “7 Top Tips For Supporting Citizen Driven Community Building” from the experts, Nurture Development.
“Self-Reliant Groups offer real freedom to improve our lives and lift ourselves out of poverty – offering hope to people, like me, who might feel their employment options are limited.” Read this article by Jayne Gosnall, organiser of SRGs in Salford, on the Church Action on Poverty blog.
The Centre for Social Justice holds its annual Awards to celebrate some of the best examples of charities and social enterprises fighting poverty, providing blueprints for national approaches. Click here to see videos of this year’s winners in five areas – family, education, worklessness, and freedom from addiction and debt.
The Catholic Church refers to social action as ‘caritas’ (Christian love of humankind; charity) and is encouraging its 22 dioceses to develop an active Caritas arm with an emphasis on Catholic social teaching-inspired initiatives that serve local communities. One of the most dynamic, Caritas Westminster, is setting up a social innovation and business centre to incubate and accelerate social entrepreneurs developing business ideas with social outcomes.
The work of Christians Against Poverty continues to grow, now with over 600 church based projects after 20 years in the field of volunteer debt counselling. Click here to find out how your church can become a partner to help struggling families become debt free, find employment, be released from addictions or gain vital life skills and serve some of the most marginalised people in your community.
Numerous church organisations are involved in resettling refugees. Helping post ‘Calais Jungle’ refugees adjust and settle, Oasis UK's approach includes education and supported housing. They are using their strong relationship with government to urge more investment in integrating refugees, to prevent their exploitation and radicalisation. More…
The Dioceses of Winchester, Guildford and Portsmouth have teamed up with Hampshire County Council to run Good Neighbours, providing practical neighbourly help. Comprising of over 120 groups, each are independent and able to respond directly to the needs of their own community. In 2016 Good Neighbour volunteers delivered over 166,000 ‘acts of kindness’ ranging from transport to befriending. It has been so successful they are looking at ways to scale. More…
‘The Christian entrepreneur’, is the latest in the Kingdom at Work project series, exploring a number of different models of Christian-inspired ethical business models. The project is led by David Clark, a member of the Methodist Diaconal Order.
Church Urban Fund have released Let's Get Together, a report emphasising the proven significance of inter-personal relationships for people’s wellbeing and flourishing. It points to the importance of churches continuing to provide opportunities, activities and spaces where people can feel that they belong.
Christians of different traditions, and other faiths, working together
This is just a few of the many examples we've heard about
The Church Investors Group, which represents 58 members of churches and religious orders of all Christian traditions, has a combined investment assets of over £17bn. They use their leverage to influence the behaviour of some of the biggest global businesses. In February they wrote an open letter to the 350 biggest companies on the stock market about excessive pay deals. James Corah, Head of Ethical and Responsible Investment atCCLA, and who, as secretary to the CIG signed the letter, explains why in this article from the Theos blog.
We are proud to be partners in the schools-community series in Liverpool, Faith 2017: working together for the common good, which is now underway with five months of events involving hundreds of school children. Our partners Alsop High School are proving that a school can be a force for the common good, involving multiple schools, churches of different traditions and the Jewish community all working together. Read their blog here and a report from the Jewish Telegraph here.
Thousands of Iraqi Christians forced from their towns and villages by Daesh (ISIS) are a step closer to returning home after bishops representing three of Iraq’s historic Churches – Syriac Catholic, Syriac Orthodox and Chaldean Catholic joined forces to form the Nineveh Reconstruction Committee. Click here to read more.
It’s impressive how quickly bright young people can get an initiative up and running. The Christians in Politics youth project now has a team of young Christians from different traditions, and across different political parties, active in different parts of the country running listening workshops to discern vocation. Dunstan Rodrigues, who dreamed up the idea and leads the team said ‘we are discerning the common good between us’.
HTB (Holy Trinity Brompton), well-known for inspiring non denominational and evangelical Christians and other Jesus followers, has been building relationships with Catholics following the Catholic Church’s embrace of the Alpha course. This year’s annual HTB Leadership Conference, includes global Catholic figures, Cardinal Tagle (Archbishop of Manila and President of Caritas International) and Jean Vanier (founder of L'Arche International).
Catholic and Anglican bishops in Portsmouth are looking at collaborating on a joint Anglican-Catholic Multi Academy Trust. Apart from the obvious advantages of scale we hope the autonomy of each school and head teacher will be protected, and that the tendency to managerialism will be avoided.
The Catholic lay ecclesial community, Communion and Liberation hold an event each year called The London Encounter and have an Anglican as their patron: Rowan Williams. Read his 2016 keynote here, No Man is an Island.
The Anglican Frank Field MP for Birkenhead sees the need for ‘a social highway code’ and as a first step, convened a meeting involving the Catholic Archbishop, the Anglican Bishop and other faith leaders in Liverpool. More…
Pope Francis is studying the possibility of a joint trip to South Sudan with Archbishop Justin Welby after receiving a plea from Anglican, Presbyterian and Catholic bishops that if they visited together the impact would be greater, and would be a witness to peace in the midst of the terrible events there.
Gillian Ahlgren has published The Tenderness of God. Building on the legacy of St Francis of Assisi and St Clare, the book resonates with what Pope Francis calls a 'revolution of tenderness' and explores just how compelling sincerity and reverent encounter with others can be.
Having been vilified for years following his prescient article ‘Too Diverse’ published in Prospect Magazine in 2004 (for which he was credited for ‘cutting through the stupor’ by questioning liberal orthodoxy), David Goodhart has now published The Road to Somewhere, which is gaining attention in the mainstream news media. Lord Glasman reviews the book here (paywall), and argues that Brexit is an opportunity but that to achieve national renewal, fundamental structural changes are needed rather than the ‘piecemeal social engineering’ recommended in the book.
For the academics among you, our board members Andrew Bradstock and Hilary Russell have a chapter ‘Politics, Church and the Common Good’ in A Companion to Public Theology (Eds Kim/Day, published by Koninklijke Brill NV 2017).
Click here for listings of events relating to the Common Good, including: Canterbury Cathedral, Taizé Community, HTB, Centre for Theology and Justice, Eden Network, Nurture Development, Housing Justice, Jubilee Centre, National Justice and Peace Network, Greenbelt, Gather, Locality… and many others. Please tell us of events you would like us to list.
Holy Week: we have prepared a very simple set of meditations for you. Click here.
Read what happened when our friend Mary Reath gave Pope Francis a copy of ‘An Open Door’, her book about the Anglican Centre in Rome, pictured here with Archbishop David Moxon. “Because Francis does not speak English and my Spanish is better than my Italian, when we met I said to him in Spanish “Oro por usted cuando me acuesto a la noche.” (I pray for you when I go to bed at night.) Pope Francis immediately replied, “Pero ¿por qué no durante el día? (But why not during the day?).”
Thank you for reading this far, and for sticking with us. Please tell us what you think.
A blessed Holy Week, and a very Happy Easter, to you and your family.
Together for the Common Good
Board of Trustees: Hilary Russell, Andrew Bradstock, Alison Gelder, Richard Holman.
Nick Deeming, Helen O'Brien and Geoff Knott will shortly be appointed to the board.
We consult with our informal Circle of Advisers.
Founding director: Jenny Sinclair. General assistant: Bryony Wells.
T4CG gratefully acknowledges help-in-kind from our many friends and partners, too many to list here.
A big thank you to the Mercy Union Generalate for hosting us in their building.
We are grateful for financial support from CCLA,
the URC Vision Mission Fund, the Passionists Grants group, and others.
Together for the Common Good is a registered charity in England and Wales (no. 1172113).
Copyright © 2017 Together for the Common Good, All rights reserved.