Category Archives: Conference 2016

NJPN Conference 2016: The start of a journey that I hope to continue for years to come.

A first time attendee at the Swanwick conference reflects on her experience of the weekend and “the feeling of purpose and calling that became stronger and stronger as I chatted to people over tea, over meals and during break-out sessions”

“When I was asked to write something for the newsletter, about my experiences of this year’s NJPN conference, I thought it would be relatively easy – just write up what I’d seen and heard, make some conclusions, and job done. As a first time attendee, I’d come home full of inspiration and ideas, ready to write something down. But when I sat down in front of a blank screen, ready to type, I found that I couldn’t write anything at all. Writers block to the extreme.
So what was the problem? I’ve thought about it again and again over the last month, every time I try to write something and fail again. So I decided that instead of giving up completely I would write what I felt I could not write.
I couldn’t write down the feeling I got when I arrived at the conference and was welcomed with warmth and acceptance, like an old friend. That feeling of ‘coming home’ that can only be felt when you’ve been away from a place where you belong, for far too long. It was a feeling that only increased over the weekend, as I listened to speeches that seemed to speak directly to me, to my questions, my concerns and my ongoing self-doubt. A feeling of purpose and calling that became stronger and stronger as I chatted to people over tea, over meals and during break-out sessions. A feeling that these were people that I was supposed to meet, with thoughts and ideas that I needed to hear, and a strength of conviction that I needed to feel.
I couldn’t write down the feeling of personal grace and blessing that I experienced as I sat among so many people of common purpose and faith. How this reverberated with my own faith and conviction to live and work for the common good. How could I describe the feeling that I had when someone laid their hands on me and blessed me with such sincere love and joy that I didn’t know how to respond, except to say thank you. How could I describe that at all?
And how could I explain the feelings I had as I watched my young son blossom over the weekend, making new friends and immersing himself in the children’s programme. Visibly growing as a person, and bringing tears to my eyes as he spoke at the final liturgy, barely visible behind the tall lectern, telling us all that bullying must stop. How could I describe that moment in any sensible way?
The truth is, I couldn’t. I went to the conference with the hope of finding out more about Justice and Peace work, making new connections with others in the network, and gaining new ideas for my work in my own parish. I came away with all of these things, but I also found so much more. I found thoughts and feelings and an unexpected calling that I just couldn’t put into words and the start of a journey that I hope to continue for years to come. The only word that I could come up with was ‘profound’. I hope that next year I’ll be able to come up with a few more. Until then, I will humbly make use of someone else’s words, as they echo the sense of calling and faithful first steps that I brought away from the conference:

“Traveller there is no path. The path is made by walking.” Antonio Machado.

Thank you all for your part in these first steps.

Katrina Rigby, All Saints Parish, Newport, South Wales.

Jenny Sinclair at NJPN Conference 2016

Jenny Sinclair, a keynote speaker at the recent NJPN conference, is the founder and director of the Together for the Common Good project. Since its inception in 2011, as a member of the T4CG Steering Group, it has been her vocation to work within T4CG’s growing network to cultivate dialogue between all people of good will and encourage them to work together for the common good, across different belief and political traditions.
She is the daughter of the late Bishop David Sheppard, whose ecumenical working partnership in Liverpool with Archbishop Derek Worlock and Free Church leaders is the inspiration underpinning T4CG. She is also responsible for her father’s archive and for Better Together Trust. In previous years she has been a screen-print artist, involved in numerous voluntary projects, development officer of a small charity, a freelance project manager and served as an ambassador in London for Liverpool Hope University.

For more information click here:

Text of presentation follows:

1. Introduction:

Well thank you John, Anne, and all the team, for your generous invitation.

As a relative newcomer, it’s an honour to be here with you.
I’ll do my best to build on what Jon said last night. I don’t expect you to agree with everything I say – I’m aiming to be a helpful stimulus for your discussions this weekend.
So I’m sure we’re all feeling the fallout of the Referendum and its repercussions personally. It goes close to home, dividing families, colleagues, neighbourhoods.
It’s more important than ever therefore for us to recognise the special role that the church can play at this critical point, in working for justice and building a social peace. How we can help our democracy work for the common good.

So – in the next 40 minutes or so, we’ll go back to our roots to how our tradition can inspire and resource us. I’ll tell you a bit about Together for the Common Good, working ecumenically and across traditions. I’ll talk about the Common Good as a practice, linking with our vocation and our spirituality. I’m going to look at the mission of the church and our special calling to build community and strengthen society. We’ll explore, and celebrate different ways to foster the relationships necessary for a just and peaceful common life together.
Does that sound ok? Are you with me? Good.

2. Where are we now?

During the campaign leading up to the Referendum I got that sick feeling you get in a hall of mirrors. Proposition after proposition was put forward.
Self-interests were offered to us as desirable choices, and then reflected back at us in multiple distorted ways. Like a self-referential world with no air.
Social media acted like echo chambers and opinion polls exaggerated the whole process.
But whether you were for Remain or Leave, the people have spoken. A whole lot of things have been exposed that have been festering under the surface for many years.
For the most part, the Leave vote came from poor areas.
For too long, a so-called progressive agenda has held some working class communities with traditional views in contempt. They feel patronised and insulted. They have been ridiculed, called stupid, old fashioned, inward-looking, disapproved of as not politically correct. Ignored and abandoned.
And when people from traditional, proud cultures experience humiliation and powerlessness they will eventually respond.
For democracy to work for the common good, it is necessary to understand what people’s interests are, and negotiate to achieve a balance.
To do this we will have to get to know each other better and foster relationships between people who don’t know or don’t like each other

3. The role for the church to strengthen civil society

Before we judge anybody else, we should look first to ourselves. Have we as Christians judged those people? Ignored people or favoured some groups over others?

Let me tell you about Ann Marie, who I know through my friend Cathi. Ann Marie lives with her four children on a run-down estate. She used to spend most of her time in her flat watching tv, going out only to get the kids from school. She said she didn’t have the confidence and there was nothing to do round where she lives.

She felt the church people in her area were more interested in campaigning about justice than in people like her right on their doorstep.
This is how Anne Marie experienced the Church.

Government efforts such as the minimum wage and the tax system can help to tackle inequality and poverty statistics but they can’t fix poor relationships, isolation, lack of agency; and they can’t fix the lack of meaning in people’s lives.
Has our notion of justice come down to handing out bits of money?
The case for Remain was built on economic arguments. But many of the people who voted Leave wanted something more meaningful.
Faith in the City published in 1985 said: “Poverty is not only about shortage of money. It is about relationships; about how people are treated and how they regard themselves; about powerlessness, exclusion and loss of dignity.”
Pope Francis is calling for a poor church for the poor and of the poor.
And now that the fragmented, unequal and divided nature of our country is laid bare, we need an examination of conscience, perhaps even of the Church itself.
It’s a hard question, but at parish level, have we personally overlooked people like Anne Marie?
Is it worth taking a reality check: has there been a tendency, unintentionally perhaps, to rank the needs of some over others?
Ignoring the interests of other human beings in our own society is to exclude the possibility of what they have to contribute.
In Pope Francis’ theological tradition, sometimes called the Theology of the People, ‘poor’ refers to people who live experience of non-power. This can be social, material, relational, spiritual, economic or in other ways. He says if the Holy Spirit is set free among these people this is how the Church itself will be transformed.
Faith in the City highlighted relational poverty 30 years ago. Now, some of the Church of England are addressing the new context. Philip North, Bishop of Burnley says: quote – “We are hooked on an outdated Temple model: thinking we are doing good by shouting at government from on high rather than seeking locally-based solutions. I am sick and tired of hearing pompous tosh about the ‘Church’s prophetic voice’ or the ‘Church in the public square’ whilst at the same time we are busy abandoning the people we purport to represent.” Unquote.
Our common life together is being challenged.
The emphasis on rights, identity politics, extremism and single interest groups amplifies mutual suspicion and fragmentation. And social media, dangerously, can actually make interaction less likely with people different from ourselves.
The potential of what the church can do to meet this challenge is vastly underestimated.
Our traditions of love, hope, responsibility, human dignity, family, community, relationships – our habits of mind – are sorely needed now.
We know that money is not the whole answer.
There is a special role for the church to strengthen civil society.
We can foster a culture of encounter, where people of different experience meet – at all levels and in all sectors. We can build the links between local institutions and between estranged groups.
Can we be the ones with the courage, who are prepared to ‘stay in the room’, negotiate and keep the dialogue going, recognising the humanity in everyone, affirming the legitimacy of what they have to say?
Church buildings, parishes and people are perfectly placed to be at the heart of the solution. We can create value that doesn’t necessarily require money.
The concept of mercy is at the heart of this.
Do you remember the feeling of being totally forgiven? Totally loved by God?
This is what the church is meant to do, through us – to convey that feeling, to everyone, not just our favourite people.
This is the kind of church Pope Francis has been asking us to be since Evangelii Gaudium.
This is the kind of outward-facing church Archbishop Derek Worlock, my father Bishop David Sheppard and their Free Church colleagues built together a generation ago.
They listened to all the voices. They were branded statist by the Thatcherite right, and as traitors by the hard left. They didn’t take the easy path.
They brokered relationships between mutually suspicious and hostile groups – police and black community, business and unions, stood in solidarity with communities as they found themselves caught between the Militant tendency and the Conservative government. They kept channels of dialogue open. They worked with business, affirming their crucial role for the common good.
Their twenty year ecumenical partnership encouraged the churches of that time – clergy and laity – to empower local leadership in ‘communities of the left behind’. They worked alongside people, not doing to but working with people like Anne Marie, building up their capacity.
Their body language said it all: side by side they modelled an outward-facing church acting in the interests of the people, not in the interests of their individual institutions.
It was a church in the street, in factories, in offices, in business – not only in the pews.
They were ‘responsive to context’ – not obsessed by the church, or by politics, but more concerned with the messiness of human life, the reality of human life.
They were not socialists, but radical traditionalists for whom poverty was an affront to the body politic.
They resisted the seduction of political ideology on both the right and the left.
They resisted being side-tracked by doctrinal differences. But loyal to their own traditions: no syncretism there. They learned from each other, realising that each had different gifts to bring. Gifts like Catholic social teaching, the see-judge-act methodology, hospitality to the whole community, courage and negotiating skills. United in the Gospel.
They rolled up their sleeves and enjoyed smelling like sheep.
This is what made the church relevant then, and it’s what society needs now.
What if it became the default way to be a Christian?
This is what inspires Together for the Common Good. I’ll talk more about that in a few moments. But before that, will you come with me?
Let’s see why relationship is at the heart of our tradition.

4. First things: the Trinity, vocation and spirituality

I’m sure you know the extraordinary 14th Century icon by Rublev.
It takes as its subject the mysterious moment where Abraham receives three visitors as he camps by the oak of Mamre.
On one level this picture shows three angels seated under Abraham’s tree.
On another it’s a window into the realm of God.
It’s a visual expression of what the Trinity means, the nature of God, and how every living person is called into a great creative participation with him.
Reading the picture from left to right, we see: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Father looks forward, raising his hand in blessing to the Son. His gesture expresses a movement towards the Son. “This is my Son, listen to him… ”
The hand of the Son points on, around the circle, to the Spirit.
We can see the movement of life towards us, flowing clockwise around the circle.
As the Father sends the Son, as the Son sends the Holy Spirit, so we are invited and called to complete the circle with our response.
We respond to the movement of the Spirit – who points us to Jesus.
This is the movement of our lives, in response to the movement of God.
There are three signs at the top of the picture: the hill, the tree, and the house.
The Spirit touches us. He leads us by ways we may not be aware of, up the hill of prayer.
It may be steep and rocky, but the journeying God goes before us along the path.
It leads to Jesus, and it leads to a tree.
A great tree in the heat of the day spreading its shade. A place where we begin to find out the possibilities of who we can be.
The tree is on the way to the house of the Father. The door is always open for the traveller, for the returning prodigal.
Each of the visitors has a staff to show they enter into our journey, our slow movement across the face of the earth.
God is with us in the weariness of our human road and sits down at our ordinary tables.
There’s a space for us at this table. We’re invited to complete the movements of God in the world by our own response. We’re invited to enter into a relationship. Its being part of this relationship that makes us fully human.
So as we think about democracy, justice and peace, this is the point from which to start: from the Gospel, out of Jesus’s interior life.
This gives us a jolly big clue about our role as Christians in the world.
It’s our job to show how humanity can recover a proper view of the human person. Not through the lens of money or unfettered personal liberalism, nor through extremist political positioning, nor through a dehumanising lens of efficiency and distributionism. But through one human person’s relations with another.
The primacy of the human person in relationship with others.
As Benedict says in Caritas in Veritate: quote: “As a spiritual being, the human creature is defined through interpersonal relations. It’s not by isolation that man establishes his worth, but by placing himself in relation with others and with God.” Unquote.
As Pope Francis says – if we don’t keep this channel open then we’ll be no more than an NGO.
To discern our mission, or our ‘hidden journey’, requires a very deep kind of trust.
A trust that ‘where God has placed me is sufficient, not knowing where it will go’.

5. Together for the Common Good, the Common Good and Catholic social teaching

That kind of trust is what has brought me here today.
Five years ago I had no idea what was in store. I can only describe what happened as a movement of the Spirit, pulling me onto a completely new path. I was living an ordinary family life, working in graphic design and as a serial volunteer. My sons were 11 and 13. For the first time since my conversion to the Catholic Church in my mid-twenties, I felt I was being called. It was my ‘hidden journey’ breaking through.
I found myself drawing a cross formed of the words ecumenism and social justice. And the intersection seemed to say reconciliation. It seemed the Holy Spirit had plans, but it wasn’t clear to me what to do.
For the first time in my life I felt drawn to look at what my father and Archbishop Derek learned from each other; what was their ‘Better Together’ philosophy really about; how could it be relevant for now. I felt out of my depth but prayed my way along. And asked for help.
I could hear my dad saying ‘who are your allies?’
A steering group formed in 2012. We didn’t intend to do more than hold a conference and publish a book. But it’s grown, and is continuing to grow, unfolding in all sorts of unpredictable creative ways.
Our newsletter is now read by over 1,700 people and organisations. Our website is a well-used resource; we’ve published our research into ecumenical social action as a handbook, along with a book of essays on the Common Good from different political and belief perspectives. We assist others in their efforts for the common good; we’ve hosted public debates and private conversations bringing people of different traditions together.
We’re now developing materials to enable teachers, clergy, laity, communities and young people to engage with the Common Good as an idea and as a practice.
We’re deliberately not a membership or a campaigning organisation. We like to be low key, a bit like a catalyst – to prompt others rather than to centralise. We have a staff of one (me) plus an intern for a few months. But it seems we are sent the graces we need: we punch above our weight thanks to our steering group members, associates working on our projects, our community of advisers and working partnerships across all the denominations and beyond. We’re ecumenical, non-partisan, and independent of any institution or denomination. There is no place for sectarianism or factionalism here.
Like David and Derek, although we disagree on some things, we think it’s mutually beneficial to work together across our differences. We’re open to learning from each other.
We encourage ‘Common Good conversations’.
Reconciliation was their method for building the Common Good. So like them, we want to encourage and equip people of good will to work together, across their beliefs and political differences, as agents of change for the Common Good.
Especially the laity, sitting at the table in conversation with the Trinity, open to discerning their hidden journeys.
Are you with me?
The Common Good
Now before we go any further, can I just be clear what we mean by the Common Good. We all think we know what it means, but definitions are contested.
So the idea resonates from Aristotle, to Indaba, Ubuntu, Shalom, across humanist, Jewish, Christian and many other traditions. No one has a monopoly on the idea of the Common Good.
We draw from across all the Judeo Christian traditions and in particular, from Catholic social teaching – or, as it is a living body of thinking – you could say Catholic social learning.
So the definition goes: “the Common Good is the set of conditions in which every individual in the community can flourish.” Yes.
But if we stop there then the concept sounds woolly and can be misrepresented.
Its how that set of conditions is created that is the crucial question. The Common Good needs to be built by us, together across our differences.
It starts with conversation. Locally, by people talking to each other.
I cannot create the Common Good on my own, or by just talking with my friends.
To build a Common Good requires people who may disagree, and whose interests and circumstances are different, to encounter each other in relationship. The results are surprising. It’s a kind of alchemy.
It is about a balance of interests. Simply put ‘it is in my interest that you thrive.’
So we talk about the practice of the Common Good.
And although it is a principle in its own right, we are also using “the Common Good” as an overarching term to refer to all the core principles set out in Catholic social teaching, because the building of the Common Good depends on the application of all those principles.
Catholic social teaching
as we know, Catholic social teaching is about the promotion of social justice, but it’s also a recipe for building a common life together.
As we’ve tried to share it across Christian traditions its name is often a barrier to non-Catholics.
So, in an ecumenical and broader context, we talk about ‘Common Good Thinking’ and at entry level we use the broad headings of: ‘The Common Good; The Person; Relationship; Stewardship and Everyone is included, no one is left behind.’
Beneath these headings are the familiar principles of ‘human dignity, dignity in work, equality, respect for life, reconciliation, subsidiarity, solidarity, participation, association’, and the importance of intermediate institutions.
It’s important that we give weight to all of the principles, and resist the temptation to pick and mix based on our own particular concerns.
And to keep in mind that we can only release the potential of what these principles can do if we keep that channel – our relationship with the Trinity – open.
We must be clear where our centre of gravity lies.
Catholic social teaching rejects ideology, both individualist and collectivist – big business and big government – both tend to dehumanise. CST offers a constructive process of discernment, not a protest narrative.
CST will only secure credibility as widely as it should, if it is clearly understood to transcend party politics. Its potential will never be realised if it, or we who use it, are seen to be an appendage of a particular party.
The old left-right orthodoxies have not succeeded in building a common life.
Partisan, tribal politics puts off the majority of people of good will.
Most people want to contribute and build a better world – but they don’t want to be part of a politicised, tribal approach.
For a long time the social justice field has been the preserve of a minority.
What about everybody else?
The majority have in effect been cut out and their contribution lost.
How do we get those people involved?
If we are to succeed in a new settlement for the Common Good, we all need to put our shoulders to the wheel and work together.
We can no longer afford to limit our potential with a restricted view. We cannot continue to do things the way they’ve always been done.
We need a joined-up approach that makes it possible for everyone to find a role, so they find their own ‘hidden journey’ linking with their vocation. This is deeply connected to the mission of the Church.
As Deus Caritas Est reminds us, quote: ‘For the Church, charity is not a kind of welfare activity that could be left to others, but is an indispensable expression of her very being.’ Unquote.
So – social action is not an ‘add-on’ but an integral part of what it means to be a Christian.
But we are less effective while we are divided from each other in our silos.

6. The wider application of Catholic social teaching – the practice of the Common Good

It’s time to climb out of our silos and see what else is going on – looking across sectors, and ecumenically – from the parish to the boardroom.
The application of the principles is only limited by our imagination.
There is of course so much going on through the institutional churches, the religious orders, the major charitable and denominational agencies – like CAFOD, Salvation Army, Christian Aid, Tearfund, and the 43 charities in the CSAN network: involving thousands of volunteers, in so many sectors, dealing with homelessness to refugees, from prisoners to modern slavery.
But what about at parish level among the mainstream laity and other ordinary people of good will?
And, can we be more ambitious than we have been? Perhaps we need a broader view of how our principles can be and are being applied to achieve deep, structural change:
• There’s Citizens UK of course, perhaps the best known application of the principles – empowering people through the Living Wage, CitySafe and other campaigns;
• I’ve long admired the Church Urban Fund, their Together Network, and their Near Neighbours programme – which help parishes encourage people of different faiths and of no faith to come together to improve neighbourhoods;
• There’s the essential social knitting going on at grassroots level by the ecclesial communities, like Focolare, the Columbans, Maranatha, St Egidio, Catholic Worker Movement and others
• There are numerous others following their own charism like SVP, Pax Christi, Church Action on Poverty, the Coventry Cathedral Cross of Nails Community, so many others.
• I’ve also learned about the explosion over the past ten years, among the Evangelical movements of parish-based franchises – through organisations like Cinnamon Network and Jubilee Plus – supporting people out of debt and addiction, welcoming refugees, running job clubs, mentoring, night shelters, parenting and resilience, working with ex-offenders, counselling in the workplace, befriending, making lunch in the school holidays, and of course foodbanks – all done by trained parishioners on a voluntary basis – rebuilding, empowering people, one relationship at a time.
• I’ve visited parishes intentionally reaching out to people in their neighbourhoods, beyond their congregations, fostering local leadership among people who otherwise would be left behind. Take Anne Marie, who I mentioned earlier. Someone actually knocked on her door and asked if she wouldn’t mind helping by baking a cake for a parish initiative called ‘Crafternoon Teas’. She was astonished that anyone would want her help. But they said ‘We need you.’ Having been so isolated before, her life is now transformed: she’s leading a community project. This asset-based approach focuses on what she can do, not on what she lacks, not what services need to be provided for her, not on what systems need to be changed. This relational approach leads to material changes too.
• We need to build a Common Good wherever opportunities arise. I’ve met extraordinary people doing quiet unglamorous work at local level, reclaiming responsibility and belonging, building back a sense of local pride, strengthening what Catholic social teaching calls ‘intermediate institutions’ and the bonds between them: from clubs, associations and schools, to Community Land Trusts and Community Energy Trusts;
• I’ve come across countless small local small business owners whose faith or good will motivates their dedication in their communities for very small margins;
• I’ve met people whose gift is to reconcile estranged groups – in workplaces, neighbourhoods, organisations. Mediating, keeping people in the room, building relationships where there is mistrust and suspicion: between left and right, marginalised and powerful, business and unions, faith and secular, sectarian groups, urban and rural, old and young, educated and uneducated, management and employees, tenants and landlords…
• There are those whose calling is to re-humanise managerial systems that have lost their soul, in the workplace, fostering love and good relationships in the social care sector, being more human with the vulnerable and in one size fits all bureaucratic processes. They know that helping one person in one way may not be the best way of helping another. It’s a matter of getting to know people personally.
I’m coming across more and more Christians active in the movement to reshape the economy: resisting the dominance of money and reforming this broken form of capitalism. They are showing it’s possible to change the way the market works by participating; creating the world we want to live in through choices we make. Some examples are:
• There’s ToYourCredit, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s initiative to create a fairer financial system including the Church Credit Champions network – teaching about money and debt in parishes – and on target to bring in in more than 3,000 credit union members by the end of the year; since ToYourCredit started, payday lending has declined by 68%;
• I’ve met lay people building relationships between charities, business and investors and the communities and places that so desperately need inward investment, like the Social Stock Exchange, with Christians of all denominations on the board, enabling investors to invest in companies with social and environmental missions – while also generating viable returns;
• I’ve met ShareAction who train investors and ordinary savers to make the investment system a force for good;
• I’ve learned about the ethical banks, like Triodos and Oikocredit and about Responsible Finance Providers. Imagine if we all – not just the activists – banked ethically, and requested our pensions were invested responsibly?
• I’ve got to know CCLA and the Churches Investors Group who collectively invest billions on behalf of thousands of churches and charities, whose approach of engagement rather than divestment, has changed the behaviour of big companies such as Vodafone;
• And I’ve learned about the responsible business movement – people taking the risk to create wealth and jobs, honouring the dignity of labour and involving workers in decision making:
• like Timpsons, who employ ex-offenders, Whitbread who recruit long term unemployed and of course John Lewis and other Quaker inspired models;
• Then there’s the Blueprint Trust, set up by Cardinal Nichols, working with companies like KPMG and Centrica, bringing the principles of CST into the boardroom
• The international B Corp movement – which is to business now what Fair Trade certification was to coffee.
• The purposeful entrepreneurship and mission-led business sector is growing fast – Millennials want to be part of a positive story.
Some things have to be done at government level. Much more of the responsibility can and should be taken by us.
This is what we mean by being ‘agents of change for the Common Good’ – linking our personal spiritual journeys with how we live.
How can we move away from the restricted view, and get everyone on board?

7. Why work together?

If we are to be effective, we need each other. What if we climbed out of those silos and worked together?
There are lots of reasons why we don’t, or don’t want to.
It’s a hassle. Collaboration is too time consuming. What about the strange practices of other denominations? Different ways of praying: hands up / hands down! We may strongly disagree politically. Let’s face it we will always have suspicions and excuses.
But working ecumenically and cross-party is at the heart of our work. I’ve seen at first-hand how MPs across parties have more in common than you might think. As Christians we should not tolerate demonisation.
We should all be asking ‘who are our allies?’ …
We need each other’s different gifts, connections, dispositions and expertise.
The ‘Together’ in the Together for the Common Good logo reminds us that as Christians, our default should be working across our differences.
The political landscape is changing hour by hour.
But our tradition doesn’t change. It transcends left and right. It’s radically inclusive.
The ‘collaboration’ in the logo reminds us that first we are collaborators with God. It’s his plan not ours.
So I will leave you with these thoughts:
• The icon tells speaks of the dignity of the human being in relationship. The human person is invited by his or her life to show forth the glory of God. Not to be reflected back at him or herself as in a hall of mirrors. He or she is more than the object of handouts, more than a commodity.
• The mission of the church is bound up in the renewal of society – an outward facing church, the laity especially playing a vital role linking spirituality with individual vocation – the theology of the Holy Spirit in practice – we can rehumanise systems that have lost their soul, reshape the economy through our actions, encourage leadership among the poor, build community and reconcile estranged interests.
• Working ‘Together’ and building relationships: the Trinity is our clue, across beliefs, circumstances, and perspectives. Vulnerability is a strength. In this critical time we need to be building alliances of good will: ‘who can I work with to get this done? What skills do you have? Can you help me?’
We should ask ‘Lord, surprise me, show me who you want me to work with.’
This is the route to a meaningful political, cultural and economic life.
It will strengthen our democracy.
This is the kind of church our country needs us to be, and it needs us to do this now.
May I leave you with this piece of scripture which for me best describes the Common Good:
“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
Jeremiah 29.7

‘Working together’ key message from NJPN Conference 2016

Around 250 adults and young people gathered in Derbyshire for the 38th annual Swanwick Justice and Peace conference this last weekend.

When the conference planning group first met some 18 months ago it could not possibly have realised just how relevant the theme of the conference would be. When so many in our communities feel disenfranchised and disengaged from the political process we feel anger and frustration with our political system.

Over the course of the weekend there was an opportunity to look carefully at our current situation, reflecting, praying and celebrating both liturgically and socially.

Key speaker on the Friday evening, Jon Cruddas spoke of the sense of ‘bewilderment and vulnerability’ felt by so many in our society and the need to ask deeper questions in a community that appears without soul and preoccupied with money, seeming to have lost its way. We must use ‘memory and knowledge’ and challenged NJPN by stating that networks within the Churches are well placed to raise deeper questions as we consider ‘what is justice’

Jon believes that justice is concerned with striving for a more ‘virtuous’ model of society, in which the essential elements of compassion, wisdom, integrity, humility, prudence and righteousness are all important

At a moment of crisis we must we must reflect on our tradition and history, re-discovering our roots. We must ask ‘what is it that will enable all to live a ‘good’ life’ Jon Cruddas Believes that ‘modern politics exiles parts of our humanity’ and that as people of faith ‘hope must dominate fear’
He concluded by stating that we must not leave it to the politicians.

Jenny Sinclair, founder and director of Together for the Common Good, emphasised the importance of ‘right relationships’ the need for working together and keeping ‘channels of conversations/dialogue open, working with, not doing to’

Jenny reinforced Jon Cruddas’ belief that we, as Church, have a huge role to play but we must be ‘an outward facing Church – in street, office, business and not contained within the pews.

Key themes from Jenny’s presentation included those of trust, reconciliation, common good thinking and togetherness. She feels that we must resist political ideology and that as Christians the Gospel requires that we seek a world in which the human person thrives in relationship with others and with God.

We are called to be agents for change, for the common good and in order to achieve this common good we must keep open channels of communication.
This process can only begin when we engage in conversations with those who might be termed ’hostile allies’ recognising a ‘mutuality’ accepting that it is in my interest that others thrive. When such situations occur Jenny believes that we engage in ‘common good thinking’ and that in order to effect change our actions must have a much broader base.

Jenny is convinced that relationship building is key, that we must listen then reflect, resisting the urge to rush into action.

She emphasised, as did Jon Cruddas, that we must root ourselves in our tradition and our spirituality. We are not inviting others to ‘come inside and be like us’ but going out and engaging with others in the reality of their situation.
Jenny feels strongly that we become an informed and active laity, working with members of the clergy in a culture of encounter.

Polly Jones, head policy and campaigns at Global justice Now, stated that ‘trade is at the top of the political agenda’ and believes that the common good is watered down by trade negotiations. Trade bills are negotiated and managed to maximise profit for companies involved and Polly emphasised the impact of the current Trans-Atlantic Trade and investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) whereby large companies are able to take court action against Governments when they feel profits are compromised.

Polly states that the common good is being ‘watered down’ as a result of trade negotiations and that companies are profiting out of austerity.
She maintains that growth alone is not enough, there must be corporate responsibility but a system of voluntary regulation has not proved to be successful.

Polly believes in the power of faith organisations and that faith groups need to use their strengths to exert influence across the political spectrum.

Conference attendees were urged to campaign for fairer trade regulations which would work for the benefit of all, not the few and consider how we encourage ‘grassroots’ involvement.
We must engage in discussion with our MEP’s with regard to TTIP as well as with the
Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and find ways of holding those in positions of authority, whether in business or politics to account.

In common with Jon Cruddas and Jenny Sinclair, Polly Jones emphasised the need to find our allies and to work together, ensuring that we win the arguments, for the good of all people.

Takura Gwatinyanya, programme manager with Caritas Harare, Zimbabwe, spoke from his own experience of working to empower communities and foster the common good in the developing world.

He spoke about the challenges of working for democracy in a situation where life expectancy is short, where there is a lack of water and because of climate change a shortage of food in areas of crop failure.

As a result many were really struggling to access the basic necessities for survival. Poor sanitation continues to be problematic and typhoid and other diseases affect so many children under the age of 5 years.

The impact of HIV and AIDS means that many children are being robbed of their childhood and education because they have the responsibility of caring for parents and grandparents.

He emphasised that the focus of Caritas is on working for the common good and this is the vision that informs his work, working in partnership with local communities on issues relating to environment, education and health as well as promoting the engagement of women, rather than with direct political action.

Caritas Harare cannot begin to meet all the needs but is called as indeed we all are, to address the needs of the most vulnerable.

Over the next few weeks look out for further conference reports, including from the workshops, providing information and suggestions for practical action.

For more information:

Together for the Common Good

Global Justice Now

BREXIT – What now

The people have spoken, so as Church – how might we respond?
Sunday’s Gospel reading offers ‘peace to this house’ whose house? How about peace to ‘ALL’ our houses?
In our midst are many disaffected and disenfranchised fellow citizens, who feel and are excluded through poverty and limited opportunity. The lack of certainty and resulting feelings of insecurity can and have led to scapegoating and targeting of the ‘other’.
Is this a moment to despair at what appears to be a real fragmentation in society as we have known it for around 40 years – A generational shift?
This is certainly not ‘a sticking plaster’ moment, we must take a deep breathe, begin a period of reflection and discernment and more especially of listening – a period of ‘walking in another person’s shoes with openness and respect.
Remembering that the ground on which we stand is ‘Holy Ground’ as is the ground on which all God’s people stand. (Exodus: Ch.3)
Whatever our political persuasion we have arrived at a moment of challenge and opportunity, we must be part of a movement for reconciliation and to accept the responsibilities of our Christian baptism.
The National Justice and Peace Network invites all who wish to be part of this process to join us at our annual conference in Swanwick, Derbyshire from 15-17 July to consider a way of ‘doing politics’ which can work for all people.
There will be opportunities to listen, reflect, to consider possibilities and to celebrate meaningful liturgy.

Click here for more information

Or email:

NJPN Conference update

The NJPN conference offers opportunity to take part in a number of workshops, each providing information and ideas for action on a range of issues.

Included are the following:

1. Sharing grassroots visions of the Good Society

Hear stories from Church Action on Poverty’s work alongside the UK’s poorest people- and explore how the approaches could make a difference in your own communities. You’ll be making your own contribution to an ongoing national conversation about how we can build a Good Society, starting at the grassroots.

2. What happens to democracy when women don’t have a seat at the table?

By focusing on the role of civil society in state-building, Progressio aims to put people and communities at the centre of social transformation in fragile states. In this workshop we’ll discuss the impact of what happens to democracy when women don’t have a seat at the table from and we’ll explore tools to create a more equal political space encouraging workshop participants to reflect on their own power and agency.

3. Monetary Reform, Social Justice and Faith

Positive Money is a movement to democratize money and banking so that it works for society and not against it. The workshop will give an introduction to Positive Money, look at how social justice principles apply to monetary reform, how faith connects to social justice, and what you can do.

4. Tax-dodging – an assault on democracy

The workshop will look at what we already know and think about tax-dodging, will give an overview of some of the ways it can take place and the effect it has both in this country and beyond. Building on the revelations of the Luxembourg Leaks and the Panama Papers we also look at the corrosive effects on our democratic structures.

5. Money makes the wars go around…and on and on!

Whether it is through taxation, investments, pensions etc. money keeps the war machine running. The workshop facilitated by Pax Christi will look at local and global initiatives that challenge this.

To book for conference Click here

Fostering a culture of encounter

Responding to the concern expressed by many following the decision to leave the EU, one of the keynote speakers at the forthcoming NJPN conference, Jenny Sinclair of ‘Together for the Common Good’ suggests that:

“Our response can be around the potential of what churches and individual Christians can do (and are doing) on the ground to foster a culture of encounter at local and neighbourhood level. We are well-placed to engage in the tough, patient work of reconciliation between different interest groups, and as honest brokers to build a common good across differences where there are estrangements. All of this can be promoted more broadly but it must be demonstrated by being lived out personally by people at parish level. We are custodians of a tradition that can help to heal divisions: love, mercy, honesty, relationships, and forgiveness. It won’t be easy to rebuild trust and there is a need for encouragement and formation in these things and we need a refreshed narrative as well as capacity building. Some communities have been ignored for a long time. It is important to acknowledge and respect that people have very different life experiences and views: we do not all have to be the same. We can enable different groups to speak honestly while also challenging demonisation wherever it occurs, no matter from what side.”

Together for the Common Good.See more here

Places still available at NJPN conference 15-17 July.

See here for booking form

NJPN Conference – Engaging in the political process

At a time when so many are disengaged from the political process the Annual Justice & Peace Conference in July, Justice, Power and Responsibility; How Can Democracy Work for the Common Good? takes up the challenge of how to empower people to take responsibility and participate in the decisions that shape our lives.

Jon Cruddas MP will set out a vision of politics which takes people beyond dependency without abandoning them to the mercy of the markets.

Jenny Sinclair (daughter of the late Bishop David Sheppard) of Together for the Common Good will reflect on our responsibility to work for the common good, based on Catholic Social Teaching.

Polly Jones of Global Justice Now will address the power of corporations and international trade.

Takura Gwatiyanya of Caritas Harare will look at developing democracy and participation in developing countries.

Workshops will explore: empowering those in poverty in the UK; empowering women in fragile states; the money system; tax dodging; how money and investments fuel wars; rethinking our notion of progress; local responses to fracking and food waste; engaging with minority communities; the role of the media; local energy co-ops; responding to the refugee crisis; homelessness; engaging with local politicians; improving social media skills. Governance in the Church will also be addressed and a Just Fair market place will offer information and resources from many organisations.

Programmes will be run for children and young people, linked to the theme of the conference.

Christine Allen of Christian Aid will chair the conference and a panel discussion is to be chaired by Simon Barrow Director of the Christian think tank Ekklesia.

For more information contact NJPN, 39 Eccleston Square, London SW1V1BZ,
Tel 02079014864

‘Justice, Power and Responsibility’ – How Can Democracy Work for the Common Good?

NJPN Conference 2016 will take place from 15-17 July.

The conference will address the following issues:

• How can communities, politics and business work together for the common good?
• What role should personal judgement and mutual responsibility play in commercial and social decision‐making?
• How can we engage people at the grassroots with clear purpose for the long‐term benefit of all?
• How can we help to encourage a fresh moral vision of a society that has the common good at its heart?

Booking forms can be downloaded here.

CONFERENCE 2016 Booking Form

CONF 2016 Booking Form (Word doc)