Jenny Sinclair, the founder and director of the Together for the Common Good project, has called for the establishment of a relationship based model grounded in the common good.
Addressing the annual National Justice and Peace Network in Swanwick last weekend, Sinclair said: “It’s time to climb out of our silos and see what else is going on – looking across sectors, and ecumenically – from parish to boardroom.”
The challenge, she declared, for those in the Church working on social justice issues is how to get more people involved.
The daughter of former Bishop of Liverpool David Sheppard, outlined the challenge of working for the common good as being prepared to work with any and everyone, from whatever walk of life. “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 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 kind of alchemy,” said Sinclair, who stressed that the demand was all the more pressing post EU referendum, which had highlighted how polarised and excluded large parts of the UK have become.
Sinclair highlighted how the Church is well placed to play “a special role in strengthening 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,” said Sinclair, who highlighted how her father and Archbishop Derek Worlock had played just such a role a generation ago.
She recalled how they listened to all voices, which led to being castigated by both left and right. However, their approach meant they were able to bring mutually suspicious groups like the police and black community groups, business and unions together. “So the Church was in the street, in factories, in offices, in business – not only in the pews,” she said.
Sinclair praised proponents of the common good in the world today such as Citizens UK, the Church Urban Fund and the Catholic Worker Movement.
She also praised the Archbishop of Canterbury’s initiative To Your Credit, which includes the Church Credit Champions network – teaching about money and debt in parishes. “It is on target to bring in more than 3,000 credit union members by the end of the year; since To Your Credit started, payday lending has declined by 68%,”said Sinclair, who urged people to invest ethically..
Polly Jones, head of campaigns and policy at Global Justice Now, outlined the dangers of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) which would enable corporations to sue governments if they do something that cuts profits.
Under a similar agreement, the Egyptian government has been sued by waste and energy company Veolia, after it brought in a minimum wage. This was deemed to eat into profits.
Jones warned of the possible implication for the common good in terms of how these agreements can bite into public service provision.