Christmas 2015 newsletter from Together for the Common Good
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Christmas: the story of relationship
Emmanuel - God with us - calls us to a story of relationship, of love: a story of a common life together. The kind of justice that flows from this stems from a recognition of our shared humanity, a common good notion of justice.
The 'Year of Mercy' has just begun. Pope Francis wants to challenge indifference with mercy because it is indifference that enables injustice, and mercilessness, to persist. There is a certain mystery around the word 'mercy'. Perhaps it is about allowing ourselves to feel with another human person, to open ourselves to experience what they experience, including their suffering. Living out the implications of mercy makes demands on us and can be uncomfortable.
Mercy is a route to justice. Transactional and libertarian approaches to a fairer society have been found wanting in terms of building a common life. But the 'soft power' of mercy leads to transformation: it supports our practice of the common good. By creating human, bridging and bonding capital, by befriending and including the excluded in decision-making, we can re-humanise soulless systems and we will see more clearly where our energy needs to be.

This winter it is 30 years since Faith in the City and 50 years since the end of the Second Vatican Council, both of which advocated an outward-facing church that puts people first. Recently, Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si’ from Pope Francis, and Who is my neighbour from the C of E bishops, challenge us to apply ourselves to a common good sense of justice and put the dignity of the human person, responsibility and relationships at the heart of everything we do.
What did Jesus do? The mystery of Christmas is the story of God with us - it is filled with clues about how the human family can live a common life together. As a refugee child, as a human person, and dying as an outcast, He shows us what remains after everything is stripped away - leaving, as Rowan Williams says ‘only the bare fact of indestructible love.' 
 including conferences, talks and workshops from
Near Neighbours, Housing Justice, Theos, Blueprint for Better Business, 
Las Casas Institute, ResPublica, Good Works and others
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The Paris Climate Summit ended with an historic global agreement, following the combined efforts of civil society, governments, business, and investors. It calls on people in the West to 'make the long journey back from mindless consumerism to global citizenship.' The text resonates with the language and concepts of the influential Laudato Si' from Pope Francis, which also featured in Cardinal Peter Turkson's lecture in London on 'Care for all Creation: a door to our common home'.

Churches are playing a key role in building a more ethical financial system from the grassroots. Parishes are using Church Urban Fund (CUF)'s videos and practical resources to help their communities with budgeting, debt counselling, savings, financial capability and inclusion. Find out about the Churches Mutual Credit Union here and the new Tynedale Community Bank that provides community lending in an area poorly served by high street banks.

Listen to Lord Maurice Glasman's 40 minute keynote on Relational Politics given at Good Labs in Newcastle. In this audio you can hear him tell his story about the Living Wage campaign, community organising and the politics of the Common Good. A contributor to the T4CG book, he also talks about the importance of leadership, and the role of the church in civil society.

Watch Anna Rowlands, another of the contributors to the T4CG book, explain Catholic Social Teaching; the Common Good; Labour, Capital and the Living Wage; Cross-party unity on migration - in four videos produced for the Christians in Politics ShowUp weekend.

Jubilee Plus, who reach a growing network of churches of all denominations, including independent and evangelical churches, have released materials and keynotes from their packed Churches that Change Communities conference, along with a range of seminars on mobilising volunteers, doing business for social benefit, empowering the poor, and growing social action. 

We recommend the asset-based approach to community development (ABCD), as opposed to a 'needs-based' approach. Read CUF's report A Glass Half Full: reflecting on strengths-based approaches to community development - includes audio recordings. For more, go to Nurture Development on the relationship between Community Organising and Asset-Based Community Building.

Housing Justice works with parishes to share practical steps for church buildings and land to be adapted for affordable homes - see Faith in Affordable Housing. So if you hear of a diocese talking about closing churches, point them in a more positive direction. HJ have also released an impact report on Church and Community Night Shelters.

To access resources and guidance on how to respond to the refugee crisis, visit Citizens UK's National Refugee Welcome Board site. Click here for updates on CSAN charities including links with Caritas France. Click here to find out about For Refugees, a new initiative linking together churches' responses with government. Click here to learn how the Jesuit Refugee Service UK serves and accompanies detainees. For a briefing note from Housing Justice, email or for advice from Jubilee Plus, click here.

For the view from Syria, watch this video of Jean-Clement Jeanbart, Archbishop of Aleppo, appealing to people of good will to assist persecuted Christians - by challenging politicians, engaging with the press and in prayer. Archbishop Justin Welby says 'ISIL draws a false legitimisation from a brand of Islamic theology promoted by Saudi Arabia and Qatar' here. Cardinal Nichols gave a statement on 4 necessary steps here and Lord Glasman, just back from visiting refugee camps in Kurdish Iraq, wrote of the dangers of appeasement and the need for a strategic coalition including Russia and Iran, here.

Near Neighbours‘Faiths Working Together’ toolkit is for all those church groups wanting to support communities of different faiths working together in social action for the good of their neighbourhoods. See also the full range of Near Neighbours' toolkits

Check out these materials and courses on Living with other Faithsresources on refugees and asylum from the Centre for Theology and Community. They combine research with a very practical approach. Their other resources include Building Something Better on housing and Just Church: Local churches transforming their neighbourhoods on community organising. 

There was a moving response to the Cumbria floods from Blackburn's Muslim Al-Imdaad Foundation. This brought to mind the exChange programme at Blackburn Cathedral and Anjum Anwar's community integration work.

A report from the Woolf Institute's Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life has faced a critical reaction. Check out these views from our friends Malcolm Brown here, the Church Times here, Eliza Filby here and The Tablet here.

Watch on video or read the short text of HM the Queen’s strikingly insightful speech at the beginning of the 10th General Synod. With very careful choice of words, she spoke of the 'vocation to work in partnership with those of other faiths and none, to serve the common good in this land.' 

Read the Orthodox Rabbinic Statement on Christianity: 'We are unequivocal partners in articulating the essential moral values for the survival and welfare of humanity'.

For insight on the forthcoming debate on Europe, read Jonathan Chaplin from the Kirby Laing Institute of Christian Ethics in 'What is the EU for?', the Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines on 'Overcoming Europe's Amnesia' and Patrick Riordan SJ from Heythrop College in 'Europe's Common Good'.

Liverpool Diocese are recruiting for a significant new post: Director of Social Justice and Canon Chancellor - for details click here - closing date 11 January 2016. The Bishop of Liverpool, Paul Bayes gave the annual Stuart Blanch lecture on 'The heartbeats of ecumenism: blood, sweat and tears'

If you are looking for a focus to build trust across differences, Initiatives of Change offers a free community workshop using a film inspired by post-apartheid South Africa. A powerful story of personal reconciliation and forgiveness between Letlapa Mphalele and Ginn Fourie - a black atheist man and a white Christian woman.

We try to collect information of interest to you. Do let us know if you hear of an item you think we should share. As far as T4CG's own work is concerned we are busier than ever, too much to list here. We are doing our best with tiny resources to keep up with a growing momentum and taking steps to move to a more sustainable footing. Don't forget to check for events on the T4CG events listings pages.

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Thank you
Thank you for being a part of this journey with us. This newsletter is just one strand of our work and your views will help us learn, so please tell us what is useful for you. Please pray for us and get in touch if you have an idea you would like to discuss. After all, we're working Together for the Common Good.

Warmest wishes for a Peaceful Christmas and a Happy New Year,
Together for the Common Good

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Hilary Russell, Andrew Bradstock, Alison Gelder, Jenny Sinclair, 
Tim Livesey, Maria Power, Richard Holman, Ali Lyon.
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and financial support 
from CCLA, the URC Vision Mission Fund,
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