Thursday, 6 December 2007

A commoner in the commons

I spent yesterday afternoon in the House of Commons. I'm not even sure that Ruby knew I was there!

I went, with other Christian church leaders to have a conversation with Hazel Blears, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. A good conversation was had in which she articulated the commitment of the Government to teaching the English language to all, citizenship education, and creating greater social cohesion and integration in all aspects of our society.

Between us we were able to make various points, which I trust and hope might bear fruit.

First, that greater recognition for all that the faith communities do (and particularly Christian Churches as a major Faith) in terms of developing and sustaining communities - and have done for a long while - would be welcome. The Commission on Integration and Cohesion makes many good points, but there is a disappointing dearth of recognition of the many roles Christian churches play, in it. I once heard someone say that if every Christian ceased to do the voluntary tasks they undertook - ferrying folk about, visiting, good deeds for indisposed neighbours, lunch clubs, etc etc etc) then the Country would grind to a halt very quickly. Not to mention the role local churches play, many in rural and inner city communities. So credit where credit is due, I think.

Second, that most Christian churches are more concerned with who benefits from a particular neighbourhood project, rather than who runs it. That we Christians are not only concerned with 'Christian' values but also 'human values' and that conviction enables us to work with others of good faith to common Good ends.

Third, that we considered the suspicion levied at 'faith communities', resulting in many deeming them unable - by simple virtue of being faith communities - to receive any Local Authority grants for good, socially cohesive projects - a mistake. It was naive to imagine that peoples faith can be removed and ignored in such things in contemporary Britain. In some senses people of Faith had something deep in common that those without (a) faith could not possess. But that did not mean we were all the same, or that particular faith communities were 'uniform' - i.e. all Jews, Muslims, Christians think alike.

Fourth, we expressed ourselves as those committed to dealing justly with migrant workers, and standing against political extremism.

A good afternoon's work, I thought. Now all we've got to do is keep trying to put words into action.

Oh, by the way, an anticipatory Advent to you all!


Olive Morgan said...

Thank you for highlighting this very important part of your work, which was not in your Prayer Card. I hope many people will read this post because I think it deserves a mention in the Weekly Roundup of Methodist Blogs on

Susan said...

Thanks for this information, Martyn. The media often presents Christians and Chistianity in a negative way, so it is good to acknowledge the positive transformational change that Chrsitians can and do bring to communities throughout this country and world wide. We do need to learn how to better promote ourselves. It's also good to know that government officials are listening.
Keep up the good work!