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Together for the Common Good Pentecost 2017

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Called to be Human

 “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (John 20: 21-22)

Dear Friends, 

"I'm human, they're human. If I didn't help I wouldn't be able to live with myself." "They want us to turn on our neighbours, but that's not going to happen. We support one another. I'm going to stay in town today and walk about and smile at people." These responses from a homeless man and a bar tender at the scene in Manchester are a clear call to our common humanity. Similarly responses after the London Bridge incident included many acts of bravery, and kindness, such as London's Sikh Gurdwaras offering food and sanctuary.

The forces of division hate the 'grey zone', the space where we can be together despite our differences. Evil always aims to divide, to provoke us into demonising each other, to dehumanise our life together.

We are called to assert life and be rooted in love - in all its tenderness, brilliance and strength. The spirit of Pentecost promotes unity and prompts us to resist the forces of division. Above all it calls us to be carriers of light in the world, to be a people capable of witnessing what it means to be a human person. Relativism and political correctness have weakened our ability to speak about difficult things, so this does require courage. We should insist on freedom of expression and religion. Salafi and other jihadists are serious and their cult of death is highly organised. Those Muslims bravely countering this hijacking of their tradition need our support.

At the same time individualism and nihilism have weakened our common life. The antidote to division is building relationships: resisting political tribalism and sectarianism, bringing the mutually suspicious together to meet each other as human beings: Brexiteers and Remainers, metropolitan and traditional communities, old and young, rich and poor, educated and uneducated, shareholders and employees, socially conservative and liberal, weak and strong, management and workers, religious and secular, urban and rural, people of different faith communities or on different sides of internal church conflicts... 

When people who have been divided take the risk to work together for a good purpose, despite their differences, they create a common good. We are not meant to be the same, or think the same: but we do share a common humanity. We are all members of the same body, and our body needs healing. People of goodwill are being called to take responsibility and work together. This is way too big for any government, but a competent and good government will help.

Scroll down for more - including our latest set of stories about the common good in the churches, in communities, business, finance, relationship building... 
T4CG news in brief
 
All 2,000 copies of the first edition of our new booklet Calling People of Goodwill: the Bible and the Common Good sold out within a month and a new edition will be published in mid June. We are excited that it is being recommended by church leaders across the traditions. Copies are £3.99 each (we make no financial gain). Please help us promote it via your networks.
We are delighted that our partners at Alsop High School in Liverpool have been nominated for another award, this time a national TES award, for 'Hope 16', the schools-community initiative in which we were a partner. Our partnership continues with 'Faith 2017: working together for the common good' and in July we will jointly host a group of Italian teachers coming to meet with counterparts in Liverpool to share ideas about what it takes to be a Common Good School.
Take a look at our new Opinion Pieces pages featuring Jean Vanier and Michael Sandel.
Our latest annual social for 24 young Christians of different traditions working in social action, politics and policy organisations was a great success, with lots of relationship building, lively discussions and sharing about Common Good Thinking.
Our other work: our training materials are now in development, we've been giving talks, responding to requests for help, we've launched our new logo and rebranded our website. Our work has featured in the media a few times recently, and we tweet regularly at @T4CG. 
Together for the Common Good is now a registered as a charity. We do a lot with very little. If you want us to keep going, please consider supporting us. To donate, click here.
Scroll down for 
  • What’s going on
  • People across the churches transforming society
  • Christians of different traditions, and other faiths, working together
  • Recommended Books
  • Events listings
What's going on
 
This was written as the London Bridge incident was unfolding so it seems inappropriate to focus on it here. Meanwhile the UK continues to undergo further political change and we face yet another election. None of the party manifestos neatly aligns with all aspects of Christian social thought: all have positives and negatives. If you are still undecided who to vote for, support a candidate of independent mind, who is guided by their conscience, who genuinely listens to his or her constituents' interests rather than following a political ideology, left or right. To meet the very serious challenges we face, Parliament needs representatives with the competence and courage to cope with complexity and difficult decisions. If you have decided how to vote, do make the effort to look outside your own circles and seek out unfamiliar voices: one of the risks to our democracy is the silo effect of listening only to people who agree with you. 
In an article for American readers in the Religion News Service, Catherine Pepinster interviews Jenny Sinclair of T4CG and Nick Spencer of Theos on the influences of religion at play in the UK General Election. Sinclair’s piece ‘Rebuilding the Broken Body’ in the Tablet was described as the “most balanced, compassionate and understanding piece on Brexit since the referendum was announced.”
It remains to be seen whether Theresa May’s communitarian rhetoric will be matched by her actions, or if she will be usurped by the right wing of her party. David Goodhart says she is among the first politicians to recognise Britain’s emerging political fault line. It is worth looking into what kind of Christian tradition May comes from: her father trained with the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield, at the same time as Bishop Trevor Huddleston. Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn is proving that there is an appetite among certain sectors of the public for a Labour programme even if that support is not universally enthusiastic about his specific leadership and the direction in which he is taking the party.
Whatever the result of the UK General Election, the need to strengthen civil society is more urgent than ever. Below you will find examples of how people across the churches are contributing to this great task.
People across the churches transforming society
Church leadership

The leadership of Christians in the Middle East should be uppermost in our minds. Bishop Angaelos, General Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church, discusses their extraordinary courage in the face of escalating violence.
The acid test of whether a church is a church of the poor and not just for the poor, is whether or not the excluded, humiliated, sidelined are being empowered to develop as leaders. We may well ask why are there so few working class people in church leadership? This thoughtful article by Stephen Kneale from an Evangelical context asks many of the right questions and is relevant for Christians of all traditions.

"If you carry responsibility, make sure you know people who are poor, who do humble, manual tasks.” Jean Vanier's interview was for many the outstanding moment of HTB's recent leadership conference, which was attended by thousands across three locations. 

Pope Francis welcomed a delegation of British imams accompanied by Cardinal Nichols in Rome, after which he visited Egypt, where he emphasised “the importance of working together for the common good”, and said “violence is the negation of every authentic religious expression.” In a letter to a Vatican conference on social integration, he warned of “the serious risks in both universities and in schools from libertarian individualism and called it a “fallacious paradigm that minimises the common good.” Meanwhile he made a mini TedX video in which he said: "The more powerful you are the more responsibility you have to act humbly. If you don't, your power will ruin you.” Alongside this, he opened a new landromat for the homeless in Rome. His meeting with Donald Trump at the Vatican was of course widely publicised. 

For some, the growth achieved by churches in the ‘HTB’ tradition is still something of a mystery, even as it has become so influential within the Church of England. To gain an insight into the church planting phenomenon known as ‘The Brompton Way’, click here.
Including the excluded

Frank Field observes that “faith organisations and particularly the Christian Church is often the only transformative vehicle left on poor estates and in rural areas” Listen to the full interview with Robert Colville. 
Clean For Good is a new cleaning company, that pays a living wage to cleaners. They have created a ‘common good’ business model. A great example of the church’s potential to do good, that should inspire other innovative initiatives. This is a topic examined in the latest report by Theos, making the case for faith based social innovation.
Transformational working in a neighbourhood is not rocket science, and it does not take a great deal of money. But it does require a willingness to love people where they are and time to engage deeply. Watch this inspirational documentary about a group of Catholic Franciscan brothers living and working with volunteers and neighbours in Bradford.

In the Evangelical tradition the ‘urban disciple’ can be seen in the Eden network, which has just launched its 50th team in Rochdale. Young Christian lay people go to live and work in tough towns and outer estates, to build community and put down roots.

Reflex (one of the Cinnamon Network’s church franchise programmes), trains people in local churches to work with young offenders, providing educational courses that unlock potential and develop character, skills and confidence. 

Learn how the church is helping victims of modern day slavery in this podcast with Bishop Alastair Redfern

Homelessness of all kinds compromises human dignity: read House Justice's non partisan questions for local candidates standing in the General Election.

L’Arche, the world wide model started by Jean Vanier, is a classic example of a common good - the able bodied and those with intellectual disabilities living together - is celebrated in the new film, Summer in the Forest, arriving in UK cinemas on 23 June.

Faith Action’s Friendly places initiative is enabling churches, synagogues, and other faith communities to support people with mental health problems.
Relationships

Caritas Social Action Network is aiming to build the capacity of Catholic parishes to contribute positively in their neighbourhoods, for example in this initiative to equip churches to become dementia-friendly, with a newly created on-line toolkit.
Find out about Church Urban Fund's Places of Welcome approach, which proposes that every neighbourhood has places where all people feel safe to belong, valued, connected - an expanding network of over 150 places.
Strong relationships are the foundation for a strong society, as the Catholic agency Marriage Care knows from its long experience. The 700-strong team of highly trained volunteers offers relationship counselling regardless of ability to pay and to people of any religious background.
Call for evidence: Relate is carrying out an independent research project to investigate the links between problem debt and relationship. They are keen to hear from organisations who have evidence of the impact of debt on relationships – if you work with people who are experiencing problem debt, or with those whose relationship problems are linked to debt, please get in touch with them. Deadline 12 June.
Financial interventions

Churches involved in credit unions and debt counselling may find a new report by Responsible Finance helpful: Tackling Financial Exclusion Through Local Finance Partnerships which shows how partnership working enhances the work to help people become economically active and financially resilient.

One of the most powerful ways to reform the economy for social good is through social impact investing, in which Christian social entrepreneurs have been among the pioneers. Many charities and social enterprises are finding this is a route to sustainability. Find out whether this is relevant for you at the Good Finance website.

Imagine the effect if people across the churches instructed their financial advisers that they wish to achieve “profit with purpose”, through their investments. But many advisers are ill prepared to navigate the new opportunities in this field. If you find your adviser, or pension provider needs to get up to speed, you can point them to the new social investment Adviser Competency Training.
Christians of different traditions, and other faiths, working together
 
Fr Dimitri Sala, a Franciscan Friar from Chicago involved in Ed Silvoso's Transform our World Network, was in the UK recently. He has worked tirelessly to bring reconciliation between Protestants and Catholics and beyond, and ministered powerfully into the marketplace. 
The word ‘unity’ is being heard across church networks of all traditions, not least at this year’s major evangelical conferences, Spring Harvest and HTB’s Leadership Conference, which featured Catholic speakers, including this video interview with Jean Vanier.
While in a historic move, Catholic and Copt churches say they will recognise each other's baptisms, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio said that Anglican orders not are 'invalid', potentially opening the way for revision of the current Catholic position.
The global prayer initiative, Thy Kingdom Come this year was promoted across the churches for the week leading up to Pentecost.
As an act of solidarity with the Assyrian Eastern Orthodox Church why not feature this extraordinary and beautiful recording of The Lord's Prayer sung in Aramaic in your act of worship.
One in the spirit: Pope Francis has invited 300 Pentecostal and evangelical leaders to Rome to join an estimated 30,000 Catholic charismatics in celebrating Pentecost. Read more here. 
Following the Manchester bombing, Anna Rowlands writes how her home town could provide a lead in How to Live Together in an Age of Terror'. Meanwhile, Muslims bravely countering extremists in their own tradition should have our support - such as Sara Khan, Director of Inspire.  
Recommended books

The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation by Richard Rohr. Recommended by Jean Vanier.
In a video reviewRabbi Sacks recommends two books: The Strange Death of Europe by Douglas Murray and Sapiens: a brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari - both books examining the ‘abandonment of the ancient philosophy’ and the impact on European culture. Ben Ryan has also reviewed the first book here.
Church for the Poor by Martin Charlesworth and Natalie Williams of Jubilee +
David Goodhart’s book, The Road to Somewhere, now a bestseller, explains the forces behind Brexit, and is described as an 'incitement to independent thinking’ by The Times.
Revd Dr Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields reviews and recommends A Politics of Virtue, by John Milbank and Adrian Pabst.
The Mighty and the Almighty: How Political Leaders Do God, a collection examining how a range of leaders – including May, Blair, Thatcher, Merkel, Obama, Trump and Putin, have ‘done God’: from Theos.
Rowan Williams reviews Rod Drehrer's The Benedict Option, saying it poses tough questions to the socially liberal majority. Drehrer argues that Christians should be "a creative minority who live distinctive lives that serve the common good.” In the Benedict Way he explores what he sees as a crisis in the liberal wings of the churches. He doesn’t mention it, but the article signals the urgent need for a common good between conservatives and liberals within the church.

EVENTS LISTINGS

Click here or on the calendar for listings of events relating to the Common Good, including: 
Nurture Development, Theos, Housing Justice, Jubilee Centre, National Justice and Peace Network, Greenbelt, Zermatt Summit, Evangelical Alliance, Jubilee+, Locality, Stewardship… and many others. Please tell us of events you would like us to list.
Thank you for reading this far - we hope you find this newsletter helpful.
Best wishes to you and yours
Together for the Common Good
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Our People
Board of Trustees: Hilary Russell, 
Andrew Bradstock, Alison Gelder, Richard Holman (Treasurer), 
Nick Deeming, Helen O'Brien and Geoff Knott and Holly Terry (Company Secretary).
We consult with our informal Circle of Advisers. 
Founding director: Jenny Sinclair. General assistant: Bryony Wells.

Contact: info@togetherforthecommongood.co.uk 

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).

© T4CG 2017






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