I'm responsible for my parents' legacy [David
and Grace Sheppard], which includes my father's
archive, their publications, and the Better Together Trust. I also
currently work 30 days a year representing the ecumenical Liverpool
Hope University in London, visiting Anglican and Roman Catholic
Most of my time is spent working pro bono as
secretary to the steering group of the Together for the Common Good
project, which is inspired by the partnership of the late
Roman Catholic Archbishop Derek Worlock, and my late father, when
he was Bishop of Liverpool [1975-97]. Theirs was a political
friendship rooted in a shared faith. They set aside their doctrinal
differences and dedicated themselves to working together alongside
communities in Liverpool.
After my mother died, people were asking me:
"What would David and Derek have said about our society today?" I
wondered if their Better Together legacy still had some currency. I
sensed a pull that I should pursue something about the intersection
of social justice and ecumenism.
There's a great hunger for a new narrative based on the
common good. We need to articulate a society that works
for everyone. So we're exploring how the different Christian
traditions, other faith communities, and secular allies can work
more effectively together for social justice.
We're seeing the gap between the very rich, and those
with the least widen further and faster in recent years.
People are cynical, and have lost faith in institutions. The
economic system we have is geared to enable those who already have
money get even more. The market's become too powerful, but so has
the state. The way to rebalance this is by civil society taking
back some of that power.
The Churches, and faith-based organisations in
particular, are well-placed to help facilitate this
because their networks are so effective and close to communities -
and because, at heart, our faith is all about a commitment to the
common good. This has the potential to transcend party politics and
bring a diversity of interests into convergence.
We need to be having the best possible conversations
about what the common good looks like. For example, what
would a housing policy for the common good look like?
The Together for the Common Good project is
independent, guided by a steering group of six people:
Nicholas Sagovsky, Bishop Stephen Platten, Hilary Russell, Tim
Livesey, Peter McGrail, and myself - three Anglicans and three
Roman Catholics. We aren't an organisation, and that's deliberate.
Our original two-year plan involves a 12-month programme of
research, a website, a conference, and a book on the Common Good
planned for early 2015.
I've never worked in the Church, or in the
social-justice field; so I didn't feel at all prepared. I have felt
out of depth a great deal. On the other hand, it's as if my whole
life-experience has been useful preparation, and I've begun to see
that sometimes coming from a position of weakness can be a
strength. I'm not embarrassed to ask the naïve questions. I can see
that my "outsider" questioning has triggered some new thinking in
others who are old hands in the field. It's been helpful that I
understand a bit about both the Anglican and the Catholic ways of
I've always been a "doer", and I like a
challenge. Rather than having a conventional career, I've
done different things: worked in business, the visual arts, run a
charity, made short films, worked on campaigns. I've experience of
organising events and relationship management.
I like bringing people together. I've a strong
sense of curiosity, and need to make sense of what's going on. I
know a very broad range of people, and I try to see things from
It's heartening to have hit on a spot, by the
grace of God, that resonates with so many people, and to realise
the huge potential in this. I'm thankful that so many people are
praying for the project.
Sometimes I get discouraged when progress is
slow, or when clarity is elusive. I'm a slogger - I'll
work for as long as it takes to get a job done well. I get
frustrated with the amount of time that gets eaten up with writing
I'm an only child, and close to a handful of my
relatives. My husband and I have been married for 25 years, and we
have two wonderful sons who are 13 and 15.
I'm proudest of my children, but they're not an
achievement, they're a gift. What gives me most satisfaction
recently is trusting my instincts about Together for the Common
Good. There were times when I could easily have walked away from
My earliest years were in Canning Town, in
London's East End, where we lived in community at the Mayflower
Family Centre. Then we lived in Peckham, south-east London, until I
was 13. We moved north when my father became Bishop of
Growing up in a clergy home was very public,
and so I sought privacy in adulthood. I was close to my parents,
though as a teenager I found being the bishop's daughter rather
trying. I know my resistance was a worry at times. I became
familiar with the "backstage" view of the Church. Conversation
round the kitchen table often focused on current affairs and
I was conscious of my mother's agoraphobia for most of
my childhood. We were very proud of her when she overcame
it and wrote An Aspect of Fear and later Living With
Dying. She surprised us all, and her ministry touched the
lives of many people. I understood her better after I became a
mother myself, and we became very close in her last few years.
Her dying was a transformational experience for
me. I've been blessed to have had no sense of loss after
my parents died. I feel they are still around, as well as others
I've known who have gone on to the fullness of life.
I'm very forward-looking, and accept the life
that God is unfolding for me, even when it is difficult. I'm very
self-critical, but I don't live with regret, and I am not
sentimental or nostalgic. My mistakes have been numerous but
useful, and they've formed who I am.
I do regret losing a large oil painting by my father
painted in the 1960s. It's an inner-city East London scene
at sunset. It has a gritty romantic realism, with people in the
foreground and a council estate behind - a powerful illustration of
his passion for human dignity. Someone somewhere has it, and I hope
it will turn up.
Fr Michael Hollings influenced me deeply. When
I became a Roman Catholic, in 1988, he said: "Welcome to the world
of happiness and tragedy." It was several years before I understood
what this means. It's a long, mystical process that will continue
unfolding until my life is complete. My favourite part of the
liturgy is "I am not worthy to receive you - only say the word and
I shall be healed."
I have lots of favourite music - very diverse:
Allegri's Miserere mei; "Jesus", by the Velvet
Underground; ambient music by Harold Budd; Karl Jenkins's The
Armed Man. I like the sound of silence in the middle of the
Jeremiah 29.7 interests me: "Seek the welfare
of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord
on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare."
The worst thing is when people are aware of injustice,
but do nothing. I am angry that the dignity of the human
person is degraded every day by poverty, worklessness, the
mainstreaming of pornographic imagery, inequality, consumerism - by
the supremacy of profit over humanity.
I'm happiest with my family. But also in my
work when I'm open to the grace of God, and not being obstructive
or obtuse; when I'm working with others on a common goal; when I'm
clear about what I'm doing; and when I meet people and come across
clues which feel heaven-sent.
"Teach me, show me, never let me be parted from
you." My prayers are often conversational. I often ask for
instructions: "Lord, please show me the way," "send me a clue,"
etc. I also use the traditional prayers often, like the Hail Mary,
Our Father, Glory Be.
I'd like to be locked in a church with a gospel
Jenny Sinclair was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.