IT IS time that the Church in the UK took steps to make its
message better known. Its unremitting decline may have been
relieved by the development of Fresh Expressions and similar
initiatives, but the gospel of Christ is virtually unknown outside
church circles. Valiant efforts are made by many parishes and
dioceses to reach beyond their boundaries, but those attempts are
too small and scattered to attract much notice. Little emerges from
the Church at institutional level to arouse public interest.
The consequences across society of this failure to make the
gospel heard are apparent in worsening standards of conduct in the
public and private sectors; in the imbalance in the distribution of
wealth; and in the frequency of investigations into ethical
standards in the media, the banks, and even the conduct of MPs.
Christian belief is that only the law of love will finally
constrain people to behave decently, and yet this re- mains unsaid
to the wider population.
Ways in which to present this gospel at national level are not
easy to find. Words alone will not work. The efforts must be large
enough to command media and public attention. They must show that
the Church means what it says; that it loves the world more than it
loves itself; and that it is not just trying to fill its own
TO BE accepted as relevant and useful, what the Church says and
does must run with the grain of social and economic need. Four such
1. The financial predicament of many voluntary societies and
charities in the present economic climate.
2. Jobs and apprenticeships for the unemployed, and for young
people who can no longer afford to go to university.
3. More club leaders and youth workers for young people.
4. Help for the elderly house- bound.
The steps must be attainable and provide the springboard for
further action. They must be cheap to lay on, because the Church
has no money to spare. The aim of the proposals that follow would
be the satisfaction of those needs, but they would provide also a
channel for expressing those social values that are redolent of the
gospel of love.
SOME years ago, I ran a series of productions that could provide
a model for the Church to adopt. The heads of large companies were
invited to carefully designed presentations, at which they were
told of the need for jobs, training, workshops, and factories in
the inner-cities. An eight-to-one return on outlay resulted; i.e.
for every pound spent on mounting the events, a pay-back of £8 was
received in inner-city investment.
A similar presentation in Hove for the benefit of charities in
Chichester diocese was equally successful in gaining new jobs,
office space, and administrative help, as well as money for those
groups. Realising the potential benefit to its residents, the then
Hove Borough Council provided, without charge, its largest premises
and refreshments for the delegates.
Similar presentations in every diocese would yield a similarly
good outcome. Charities would display their work and needs to an
invited audience of the heads of businesses in the area. After the
main presentation, members of the public would be invited to view
the display, and contribute to the work.
A platform party of the bishop, the lord lieutenant, the patron
of a charity, the MP, and the president of the CBI for the area
could remind delegates of the benefits to themselves, their staff,
and families provided by the charities.
These groups need not just money, but support and encouragement,
secondhand computer equipment, stationery, a personnel carrier for
an old-people's or youth club, legal or accountancy services,
office space, or training facilities, which many businesses could
provide at little cost to themselves.
IN LONDON, the chief executives of banks and financial
institutions could be invited to a conference at which the
Archbishop of Canterbury would take the chair, perhaps assisted by
the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and the Bishop of
A range of costed options for job-creation projects, new
apprenticeships, and the appointment of youth workers would be
described. Delegates would be invited to contribute to a seed-corn
fund of up to £250 million for such work; the options would be
chosen depending on the money received. For continuity, the fund
would have to be annually renewable.
It would chime with the Government's Big Society initiative so
support from the Government might be expected, perhaps including
match-funding. A seed-corn fund of such size would require
significant patronage, and the chairmanship of a high-profile
Large though it might appear, such a fund would represent a
small fraction of the profits and bonuses earned in the City. It is
not unlikely, therefore, that the banks might welcome this
opportunity to recover their lost public respect, provided that
they were assured that the money would be well used and properly
THE cost to the Church of such events would be small, since
other local authorities might follow the example of Hove in
offering premises free of charge. Given the publicity opportunities
that the events would provide, the supermarkets might well sponsor
the presentations and supply refreshments.
There are people in the churches with skills, who could run the
events and administer the fund, perhaps assisted by staff seconded
from the donor bodies. The voluntary bodies would undoubtedly
welcome an opportunity to present their work.
The presentations must be professional. After preliminary
discussions, planning would begin with the appointment of a strong
working group to prepare a pattern for the local events. This plan,
together with training, would be made available to participating
dioceses. Representation on the working group could include Lambeth
Palace, Church House, Westminster, two or three dioceses, and the
Council for Voluntary Social Services. The Roman Catholic and Free
Churches could be included.
Another group, working in parallel, would prepare the London
event, first seeking advice from government ministers, the
Treasury, the CBI, and the Bank of England on the approach to the
banks. Those bodies might be represented on the group.
WOULD these proposals work? As regards the local appeals for
support for charities, there is no reason to doubt the same success
now as in the past. The presentation in London to leaders of the
financial institutions would enter new territory, but the proposed
preliminary discussions with central authorities would overcome
much of the uncertainty.
Why do it? Because Jesus said: "Launch out into the deep." He
said that those who claim to love God but do nothing for their
brothers are liars. There are people out there, served by the
voluntary bodies, whose help they cannot receive for lack of funds.
Thousands want jobs or apprenticeships that a little imagination
and money could provide. In all such fields, greater effort by the
Church is needed. It still has a voice of moral authority, which it
should use for the public good.
What is in it for the Church? A platform would be provided at
the highest levels for every bishop to preach the gospel of love of
neighbour, made real in positive action. An opportunity would be
provided for leaders of commerce and industry to contribute
directly towards social needs. The importance of the proposed
projects would attract media publicity, and so elevate the Church
in the public mind.
The whole Church would be drawn together in common endeavour,
with lasting resources of money for continuing the work in
employment and social fields. It would put the Church back on the
map, and establish our new archbishop as its leader.
The Revd Douglas Hollis is a former civil servant and
consultant to public bodies, who is now an NSM in Sussex. Versions
of this and his earlier articles for parish-magazine inserts or
leaflets are available from