Open Networking Day: Reading 20 September 2014

‘Live simply, sustainably and in solidarity with the poor’ a phrase that can slip easily off the tongue but which, after honest reflection, must inevitably both disturb and challenge each one of us to look carefully at the manner in which we relate to the totality of God’s creation.

On Saturday 20 September some thirty five justice and peace activists travelled from many parts of the country to St William’s Church Annexe,in Reading, receiving a warm welcome on arrival.

Accepting the challenge to consider practical ways of putting faith into action individual members of the National Justice and Peace Network (NJPN), together with representatives of diocesan groups, peace and social justice organisations as well as members of religious communities met together to explore ways ofliving the Gospel more fully.

The day began with prayer, followed by a formal welcome by Fr. John, the parish priest. He then gave a short overview of a volunteering programme which continues to grow from a small beginning where local charities were invited to be part of a ‘market place’ pointing people to sources of help in times of difficulty.

Following this session, as each person introduced themselves it quickly became very clear what a wealth of commitment to and experience of working for justice and peace was present, the people of God, by their very presence, acclaiming ‘Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven’  

There then followed a short, informative presentation of the ongoing Portsmouth diocesan pastoral plan and the placing of issues of justice and peace within this plan.

The main focus of the morning was a presentation by members of the Parish of St John Bosco in Reading: Living the Gospel – on being a Live Simply Parish.

In 2012 St John Bosco’s had become the first parish to achieve the livesimply award, in recognition of the ways in which the parish community had committed to making a difference by living more simply, sustainably and in solidarity with the world’s poor, wherever they were to be found. The award came at the end of four years of effort and the speaker emphasised the need to take small manageable steps. Each parish group was invited to contribute ideas thus encouraging whole parish involvement as well as interaction with community groups.

Areas of action included, for example, recycling, waste reduction, composting, fair trade, foodbank collections, shrinking of carbon footprint through such activities as walk to Church Sundays, litter picking and hunger lunches. Energy efficiency was addressed in conjunction with the parish maintenance group, resulting in the installation of solar panels.

At the centre and drawing all activities into a meaningful whole was liturgical celebration.

Whilst working towards achieving the award it was recognised that personal invitations to engage with the project were more productive than by use of posters and newsletters. The team emphasised the value of the livesimply resource pack.

It was also important to realise that achieving the award was not the ultimate goal but an encouragement to continue and increase momentum, providing a range of possibilities for the living out of Gospel values as a worshipping celebrating community.

The extended lunch break provided useful networking time and an opportunity to read reports of justice and peace activities from dioceses, agencies and groups, to browse at the book stall and collect campaigning materials. The issue of trafficking was raised and the work of the Medaille Trust was highlighted as was that of ‘Unchosen’ – which uses film to raise awareness of modern day slavery in the UK and Ireland.

The afternoon session focused on the work of NJPN, its members and partners, giving an overview of the range of issues, campaigns and activities with which members engage.

Information was shared by Pax Christi, The Romero Trust, Jubilee Dept Campaign, 2020 Vision, Christian Ecology link, CAFOD’s new Climate Change Campaign, Africa Europe Faith and Justice Network, Close the Gap as well as information on the UK Gold DVD – ‘Revolving Door’

Maria Malson, on behalf of NJPN executive members facilitated the business section of the afternoon. Evaluations from the annual conference were extremely encouraging, many highlighting the joy of working ecumenically. One point to note is the importance of ensuring our voices are heard during the period leading up to the General Election.

Look out for information on conference 2015, focussing on the ‘Things that make for Peace’

The environment working party continues its good work and would welcome new members. The autumn edition of the newsletter will be available within the next three weeks, a welcome resource well received by its readers, any fresh ideas gratefully received by the media and marketing working party. The NJPN web site is still work in progress but will hopefully be launched in early October.

There was a packed agenda and discussion was wide ranging but major strengths of the day were the networking, information sharing and feeling of solidarity to be found among all who attended.

Thank you to all who facilitated the event and to those who participated.

For more information on the Live Simply parish award: