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The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee has reminded us of the best of human qualities. Warmth, affection, kindness, gentleness, gratitude and selflessness seem especially resonant. But there is a sense of brief respite about these days of happy celebration: there is unease below the surface. We are so moved by those qualities because we sense they have been eroded and we long for them. The pressures of inflation and rising costs of living add further pressure to an already precarious situation. But our societies are suffering from a deep spiritual malaise: there is need for both civic and spiritual renewal.
An individualistic philosophy over at least four decades has damaged our life together. It has led to degeneration, and in parts of our country, to the abandonment of whole communities. Not only here: this is true of all countries who adopted this philosophy. This individualism is unravelling our societies. The symptoms are clear: breakdowns in trust, political polarisation, social fragmentation, rises in loneliness and crises in mental health. The evidence is more visible in some places than others, but it is everywhere. A philosophy which denies the transcendent dimension of the human person ends up with a false anthropology. And a society based on this misguided conception is inhospitable to the human being. It becomes a machine. It is also unsustainable, which is why it is unravelling.
Building common good is the antidote, and churches can help. But civic renewal is not sustained without spiritual renewal. Spiritual renewal requires a theology of the Holy Spirit that is grounded in place and shaped around the truth of what it means to be a human person, made in the image of God. On earth, as in heaven.
When Jesus meets Nicodemus, He says that to leave behind past habits, we need the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. He says you can’t understand what the Kingdom of God is, unless you are born of the Spirit. Jesus says “I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?” (John 3:12). The reality is that there are two realms, the heavenly and the earthly.
Pentecost saw the apostles experiencing the outpouring of the Spirit. Today, we need to know which worldview we are operating from. Because sometimes we in the churches forget who we are. We end up operating from within an earthly paradigm, using managerial, technocratic approaches, thinking we can sort it all out on our own. We can’t. The in-dwelling of the Spirit in us must come before any plans or projects. This means a constant posture of listening – to the Holy Spirit, and to one another, discerning where God is calling us. So in this edition, we are delighted to bring you a beautiful story from Father William Taylor about listening, which he and his parishioners have discovered is a gentle yet powerful way to build common good with their neighbours. We also have Jenny Sinclair writing about the importance of loving kindness as a way of building relational power, and Jenny also shares her work with Middlesbrough Diocese who are taking to heart the Spirit-led listening posture in their synodality journey.
We’re also very pleased to share details of our new lecture series in partnership with Lincoln Cathedralwhich starts on Tuesday 7 June. We’ll be looking at the common good, civic and spiritual renewal and you are warmly invited. If you live within easy reach please join us, or otherwise do watch the recording afterwards.
Also below you’ll find an essay on Solidarity from theologian Anna Rowlands latest book, plus our latest selection of articles to help you read the signs of the times, and some recommended books. Finally, we are excited to introduce Jo Stow and Sean Ryan who have joined the T4CG team: they each share their vision for our work with schools and churches, helping them become more relational to strengthen their local community.
Holy Spirit, come and dwell in each of us this Pentecost.
Founder and Director, Together for the Common Good
*This is an extract from our Pentecost 2022 mailing. To read the full content, click here
Like what you are reading? More inspirational content from Jenny Sinclair can be found here: https://togetherforthecommongood.co.uk/news-views/from-jenny-sinclair