As we move away from the COVID crisis and lockdown seems an ever distant memory, we can find ourselves looking back at what we had to do with a certain bemusement. Did we really huddle outside around fires in our gardens with friends, or on doorsteps, while a perfectly warm house was behind us? Did we really wipe down every delivery from outside with disinfectant? It seems so strange until we remember the fear and the dire warnings we were given. That sense of fear in many ways has been ground into our collective psyche, whilst at the same time we can feel resentful of the leaders who themselves broke the rules. Although the reason for those lockdown restrictions and behaviours has gone, their residue lingers, with increased anxiety among whole cohorts of young people who have missed out on significant development and an NHS which is still struggling.
In the midst of the crisis, there was the bright light of faith, playing a part, practically serving and connecting, filling the gaps, with this role being documented with the two Keeping the Faith reports commissioned by the APPG on Faith and Society. The positive contribution for faith to UK society has rarely been so obvious. And, of course, this continues with the faith-based response to the next crises that followed; Afghan and Ukrainian refugees, Hong Kong arrivals and now the Cost-of-Living Crisis. A couple of weeks ago, the impact report of the Warm Welcome scheme was published. This scheme saw faith organisation and places of worship open their doors to provide a warm place as many faced significant fuel inflation.
As we look towards Faith in Partnership Week, we can celebrate the way faith groups are working together in local areas to make a difference. We are pleased to say that West Midlands Combined Authority and regional Mayor Andy Street, will be signing the Faith Covenant. Much of what we celebrate will be tangible programmes and projects that people can see, feel and my favourite – taste.
However, there is another thing that faith brings. We could call it morality, although we don’t like that term. I think maybe it is better to consider it as mental anchors that faith provides. We know that much of Western society is built upon the concepts of Christianity. It provides the bedrock for the concepts of equality and human flourishing which we take for granted (as suggested in Glen Scrivener’s The Air We Breathe: How We All Came to Believe in Freedom, Kindness, Progress, and Equality, or Tom Holland’s Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind). There is often a chiming together of different faiths when we look at the duty towards the vulnerable and weak.
Recently I was speaking to a manager in a VCSE organisation who was using me as a sounding board about some issues with colleagues. I remarked that one of the issues that seemed apparent was the need to gain status. I remarked on the Christian representation of leadership as service, with Jesus’ prominent example of being the servant king. “Oh, I like that!”, she reacted.
This exchange reminded me of the value we can bring to the table as people of faith. Sure, we can bring volunteering, commitment and staying power. But we also have a dynamism in how humans should conduct themselves. With the widespread effect that faith has had on the very roots of society, these mental anchors, may not be unique to those of faith, but they are pretty common.
So, in answer to the underlying questions that some may ask about #FaithinPartnership why should we partner with faith?, sometimes it may be just as good an answer to say we have a philosophy of service that is rooted in our faith.
We want to make a difference.