Wednesday 15th June at 6.05pm: JustShare Lecture: 'The Politics of Liturgy'
The Revd Professor Mark Chapman, Vice Principal of Ripon College
Professor Mark Chapman gave a challenging lecture on the role of the Church in society today. He contrasted the Church of England with the Church in Germany, suggesting that the German Church might fairly be called a 'Big Church' since even though its attendance rates were similar to the C of E's,it received 9bn Euros each year in 'tax' from the 60m nominal members, and a further 45bn euros from the state for the provision of welfare services. In England, in contrast, there were no nominal members nor taxation system and no major state investment in Church work.
The Church of England was therefore a small Church, even though it often saw itself as a big Church because of its establishment and historic entanglement with the state. Professor Chapman argued that we delude ourselves if we believe the Church is any more than a minority religion today. However, he proposed that being a small Church in a post-Christian society made it much clearer that the Church is not an institution - it is individuals like us. This should liberate us from the bureaucracy necessary to a large church and release us to live out our faith in our communities and in the world.
Professor Chapman was introduced by Jez Martin (of the Bank of England and JustShare's Steering Group). As ever, we were grateful to La Riojana for generously providing Fairtrade wine.
Wednesday 11th May 2011: JustShare Lecture: Responding to the Big Society
The Revd Dr Angus Ritchie, Director of the Contextual Theology Centre
Dr Ritchie, who was introduced by Mike Buckley of Bellwether Consulting, called for engagement with the concept of the Big Society in a fascinating lecture at St Mary-le-Bow. He recognised that the Big Society had become discredited as a political slogan but argued that it had much potential. He illustrated this by drawing on the achievements of community organisers such as London Citizens whose successful Living Wage campaign had transformed the lives of countless Londoners and their families. The strength of the organisation, he suggested, was in its diversity and the extra weight it had by developing consensus across its diverse membership.
Dr Ritchie suggested that at the heart of the Big Society was a narrative of stewardship, liberation and communication to identify and work for the Common Good, building consensus and solidarity in diverse communities. He argued that the Church should take this idea seriously whilst recognising the tension with a Big Society which could also mean spending cuts and shifting relations of economic and political power. Discussions continued over wine.