A Faithful Presence: Working together for the common good
SCM Press £10.99
Church Times Bookshop £9.90
COMPARE and contrast the Churches’ approach to community involvement today with 30 years ago. If you were set this essay question, you would be pleased to have A Faithful Presence to hand.
It is also an aid to our morale, as Hilary Russell reminds us of the range and depth of Christian social action over the past 30 years. For many of us, social justice is integral to our faith. The quest for social justice involves more than acts of generosity or helping those in need, and Russell seeks to illustrate how churches and Christian agencies have indeed gone beyond one-to-one relationships and engaged with the political, economic, and social structures that make an impact on our common life. Many of the illustrations that Russell uses are drawn from research undertaken under the auspices of Together for the Common Good (T4CG).
T4CG is a growing movement that seeks to reprise the collaboration between Bishop David Sheppard and Archbishop Derek Worlock and their commitment to being agents of change — for the sake of the common good. This means Russell gives a boost to the near-forgotten art of ecumenism, with an excellent chapter on what has happened to ecumenism over the past 30 years, culminating in a fulsome description of the move from structural and calendar ecumenism to realised unity rooted in local relationships that facilitate working together.
Russell is clear that past performance cannot just be rolled into the future because new questions are being asked of the church. The book concludes therefore listing emerging trends in relation to citizenship, the role of the market and the state, and the place of regulation.
Finally, Russell, Emeritus Professor of Urban Policy at John Moores University, sets questions for social activists to consider in relation to our practice. These are important questions, and also deserve consideration by those who prefer to locate themselves under the banner of “Fresh Expressions” rather than social justice.
Ann Morisy is a freelance community theologian and lecturer.