Tuesday, 15 February 2011

The `Big Society?` Blink and you`ll miss it.

Post by Ash

The `Big Society` is back in the headlines and again dividing opinion. It seems to induce one of those moments that author Malcolm Gladwell attempted to define in his book `Blink`. It was his premise that the vast majority of key decisions we make as individuals are based upon that one or two second `blink` moment when we first see or hear a person,or become aware of a situation or event. It`s rapid cognition, the sort of thing that some would refer to as intuition, but which in his opinion much more rational than that.

So no suprise he might suggest, that when we are presented with the phrase `Big Society`, particularly when uttered by a politician, there are instant responses ranging from the encouraging or perhaps just a weary resignation, through to the downright dismissive. Even the marvellous Archbishop Of York Dr John Sentamu was minded to tell viewers to last Sunday`s Andrew Marr show on the BBC, that this is an idea that has been around for at least 2,000 years.

I guess that we`re all prone to the `blink` mentality, and of course a small dose of cynicism is thought to be good for us. Is organised traditional religion similarly affected ? For example;
The `Big Society`?- (blink) "we`re already doing it."
Full-House worship ?-(cynicism) "great ideal but we live in a secular society with so many competing demands upon time,the world has changed,so it will never happen."
The way to God ?- (blink) "er..., through us please, not any of the other lot."
Cairo-style revolutions ?-(cynicism) "yes it`s lovely that they`re striking out for democracy, but it`s likely to end in a pyrrhic victory."
Maybe though we should take some time for a closer examination.
The `Big Society` ? This may mean different things to different people, but most seem to agree that if it`s about anything then it must be a `sense of community`and a way of letting `people rather than bureaucracy` take control. Helping others is the key or as Therese Coffey MP rather neatly stated, "go and do it". The Archbisop Of York was right in his assertions in that for over two millennium, we have had access to a religiously driven moral code, a way to lead a life, a divine light. Much great work has been undertaken as a result including magnificent projects and outstanding contemporary examples of lives being led that we could all quote. But if the social actions of traditional religions in the UK today were to be compared for example with those of just over a century ago, it would be difficult not to reach the disappointing conclusion that it has played anything other than a `bit part`in the overall scheme of things. How many of the buildings for example, are purposefully used for communities across the day, let alone throughout the week ? Everyone knows that the Salvation Army works directly for the support of the vulnerable.It`s surely no coincidence therefore that their motto is `belief in action`; they are a `doing` as well as spiritual organisation-their buidings at least are certainly put to work.

And how many individuals in our society would be sufficiently engaged to search out advice or support, or would seek to test their opinions on important matters in their life through contact with their community church. How many would even know where this was ? So can it really be assumed that `we already do` the Big Society ? Individually maybe, but via our collective assets ?

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Sin,Sacrifice and Salvation

Post by Graham

Recently we attended the final service at a local chapel which had been forced to close its doors because it is no longer sustainable with the small number of people attending on a Sunday. It was a good service, the chapel was full and the singing was excellent. We were pleased to take part in the service as we had fond memories of the place. We ourselves attended services there only spasmodically, but my wife`s father, a real chapel man, frequently went there on a Sunday during the short time he lived with us before his death. In fact his funeral service was held there.