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Wealth creation and lost opportunities

03 August 2012


From Prebendary Olwen Smith

Sir, - I was heartened by the article by the Revd Dr Hugh Rayment-Pickard ( Comment, 20 July). I was in industrial mission for more than 30 years, and it was a source of anguish that church members could not see the link between the economic order and their Christian discipleship.

Industrial mission has always been at the cutting edge of ministering to those who create wealth - not only by "weeping with those who weep" (as when redundancies are announced), but also by "rejoicing with those who rejoice" (as when profits are up and jobs are created), knowing that God is in the boardroom as well as on the shop floor.

I always remember being asked: "What have you, a 'woman of the cloth', got to do with us who have to do with 'filthy lucre'?" The answer lies in our theology of the incarnation. If the Church were better at doing theology, then there would be no need for the question. Industrial mission works to enable the Church to make the connections between faith and the economy, including the creation of wealth.

It is, therefore, very sad that many of the recent cuts in diocesan posts have come from industrial mission. It is no wonder that church thinking is so muddled about commerce. Perhaps we need to think again about the real cost, in mission terms, of losing these posts.

(Former Team Leader of Black Country Urban Industrial Mission)
St Andrew's Vicarage, 66 Albert Road, Wolverhampton WV6 0AF

From Mr John Wheatley

Sir, - The views expressed by the Revd Dr Hugh Rayment-Pickard turned out to be even more appropriate in the light of the obituary ( Gazette, same issue) of Major Kenneth Adams.

When Adams was appointed at St George's House, Windsor, it is true that his "wealth-creation" mission was directed at not only clergy, but also people of influence in the worlds of commerce and industry (yes, industry then was still a key part of the national economy).

Happily, however, he responded to a call from the Church of England Men's Society to take his powerful arguments to the parishes throughout the country by using this grass-roots Society. I well remember the sermon that he gave to us, using the Good Samaritan parable, with the question, "Where did the two pence come from?"

With a membership of men from the whole range of work - shop-floor and office to boardroom, and every public sector, we were well able to debate and consider at all levels the balance between money-making and how it was put to use.

Because we were part of parish life, we were in a unique position to influence the Church (and, dare I say, parish clergy) where it mattered - bridging the divide between worship and work.

Our aim from parish branch to parish branch was, as Dr Rayment-Pickard stated in his final paragraph in respect of today, to face up to the prejudices against money-making by showing, in our working and Christian lives, that wealth can and must be created for the common good. It was too important to be left only to "the great and the good".

As you know, the Society, as a single-sex organisation, was closed by a Church uncomfortable with its segregation. What should have been done, of course, was to change the Society into one that ministered within parishes, to all who worked, men and women. Dr Rayment-Pickard may have had a different story to tell if it had.

Little Granary, 1 Bean Acre, Hook Norton, Oxon OX15 5UA

From the Revd David Haslam

Sir, - The Revd Dr Hugh Rayment-Pickard may not be on the strongest ground by citing the parable of the talents as New Testament teaching supporting the making of profit. Does he really want to ally himself with a Master who was "a hard man", who reaped where he had not sown, and gathered where he had not scattered? That surely means he had made his money by exploiting others' labour.

The third servant was the only one who refused to enter into this greed-inducing system, in which those who have are given more, and those who have nothing forfeit even what they have. Parallels with self-enriching bankers, and those losing their benefits as a result of those bankers' schemes, spring to mind.

The hero of the parable of the talents is surely the third servant, who refuses to get rich by exploiting others, not the Master, who has got it down to a fine art. The creation of wealth is, of course, essential, although it can be done - and perhaps more kindly - by co-operative and collective means as well as by individual entrepreneurs.

The latter have their part to play, but let it not be solely for their own benefit, but - at least partly - for the common good.

59 Burford Road, Evesham WR11 3AG

From Janet Leythorne

Sir, - The Revd Dr Hugh Rayment-Pickard's article seems to me to omit one important point: namely, that we are stewards, not owners, of whatever money and material possessions we have. It is our responsibility to exercise that stewardship wisely, considering the needs of the whole of creation as well as our own.

Alexanders, The Cliff, Arbor Lane, Pakefield NR33 7BQ


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