Another of Justin Welby’s visions has begun to bear fruit.
Yesterday, Lambeth Palace hosted the launch of the much-heralded Community of St Anselm. In a special service in the Palace’s chapel, 36 young men and women committed themselves to a year of praying, studying ethics and theology, and serving the poor. Explaining the missional aims of the Community, its Prior, Anders Litzell, has written:
When Justin Welby and his family were moving into the family apartment on the top floor of Lambeth Palace in 2013, someone asked the new Archbishop of Canterbury what he was going to do with the rest of the 800-year-old building. “We’ll fill it with young people,” he said.
The Community is open to young Christians from around the world, from every part of the church, and with every kind of professional background or ambition. Whether they are already, or plan to be, working in banking, education, politics or the media, or they sense a call to serve the church, the programme offers the same opportunity: to experience a monastic lifestyle focused on Jesus Christ, and to do that while actively serving in the world.
Some will be residential members, based at Lambeth Palace; others will continue their day jobs in advertising, education, media, banking, the civil service and elsewhere – part of their challenge will be exploring how to close the gap that often exists between professional and spiritual life.
But despite the diversity of their national, cultural, professional and denominational backgrounds, the unifying question for all of them over the coming year will be: how do I follow Jesus throughout my life, and stay deeply committed to him wherever life takes me?
The Archbishop of Canterbury knows too well what many churches fail to tell their members: namely, that God’s Kingdom needs to be manifested just as much, if not more so, in the worlds of banking, politics, industry and the media as it is within the walls of our church buildings. How often is it preached from the pulpits that the best way to live for God is to work for the church in some way? It may be subliminal; often more implicit than explicit, but, honestly, how often do we hear church leaders enthusing their congregations about getting stuck into their secular jobs and considering how they can be salt and light in the world, rather than pleading for more people to fill the coffee rota or help out with the children’s work?
We regularly pray in our church services for the Queen, our bishops, clergy, ministers, youth workers and missionaries. We pray for those with more ‘virtuous’ jobs, such as teachers at the start of the school year, or for doctors and nurses as they cope with suffering and death. But what about everyone else? Do we not need prophets, pioneers and faithful witnesses in every industry, business and profession?
It ought to be easy to stay true to your faith in Christian circles, but faithfulness in a work environment in the world, where no one quite grasps what it means to be a follower of Jesus, can be a big challenge. And talking about what you believe – witnessing to the truth – is tougher still. But if we have any hope that the message of the gospel will once again spread to all of the corners of this country, we need many more spirit-filled Christians who are willing to take the narrow road whilst holding firmly to the faith and refusing to compromise their beliefs.
In an honest and candid interview in Christian Today, Conservative MP Gary Streeter highlighted this very issue. Just how can Christians be involved in the dirty world of politics without succumbing to the forces of secularism and party tribalism? At least things have moved in the right direction over recent years. As Streeter puts it, Christians are far more willing to accept that a Christian presence in politics is a good thing than they were 20 years ago. He is in no doubt that the Christian presence in Parliament has made a significant difference since he became an MP in 1992. He is also aware that Christians who feel called into politics – and other ‘public square’ professions – face distinct and tough challenges:
Politics is difficult… If people feel encouraged or called to be involved in that decision making process, they may need to accept the tough baggage that comes with it. I personally can’t bear party politics. When I felt God call me into politics in 1986 it came as a complete shock. I didn’t know anything about politics. It came as an even bigger shock to my wife. I was never looking to be, but I felt called. So I would encourage people that if they feel passionate about some of these big decisions that communities and our country have to make; seek God and they might be surprised and find that he taps them on the shoulder and says “yes this is for you.” And if He calls you, He will equip you.
One of the roles which Streeter is keen to play is that of a mentor to other Christians setting out on their own journeys into politics. Christians in Politics (CiP) – which is the umbrella group of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, Liberal Democrat Christian Forum and Christians on the Left – understands how important it is that Christians go into demanding professions walking close to God, with their eyes open and with plenty of support behind them. That is why Streeter has been working with CiP to organise their first national ‘Show Up’ weekend. For those Christians considering or pursuing a role in politics, this conference brings together a strong line-up of speakers including MPs, author and social commentator Os Guinness, and Krish Kandiah, President of the London School of Theology (there are rumours that His Grace’s Deputy Editor will be making an appearance, too). They will be there to encourage, discuss and share. As one of the directors of CiP, Claire Mathys, puts it:
I’m often asked by Christians how they can get more involved in politics. This weekend is a unique opportunity to learn from those already doing it; connect with others passionate about the issues facing the UK; and be sent out to positively impact communities.
The weekend takes place on the 6th-8th November at Sunningdale Park in Ascot. The cost including meals is £140 for a single room or £110 per person for a twin room. Full details here.
His Grace’s blog rarely promotes events, but, for those considering or actively exploring a future in politics, this conference is an opportunity to be grasped. As a gesture of support for the initiative, the Archbishop Cranmer blog is exclusively offering a £140 single-room ticket for the entire weekend COMPLETELY FREE OF CHARGE. Anyone is welcome to enter on condition that they are able to attend for the whole weekend. All that you need to do is submit your details via the form below.* A name will be chosen randomly from a hat.
If you know someone who may be interested, please spread the word. The closing date is 5th October and the winner will be contacted soon afterwards.
Show Up Weekend 6th-8th November Entry Form
*No personal data will be retained or shared with any third party.