Setting out on a political pilgrimage

GettyImages-490417636.jpgBarton Creeth shares his experience of the Brighton Labour conference.

Setting out on a political pilgrimage: after my first Labour conference, the real work has just begun.

On the Saturday afternoon before the start of this year’s Labour Party conference, worn down from a long work week and sitting in my London flat, a thought ran through my head: I won’t really know anybody down in Brighton, and really, what difference will it make if I just stay home? I only recently got involved with Labour back in April, when I moved to London from Belfast for work. While I’ve been involved in politics for some years, the culture and machinery of the Labour movement in Britain is all very new to me. When an email went around asking if I wanted to volunteer with Christians on the Left at conference fringe events, I said yes, but now that I was supposed to get on the train to Brighton, I was feeling a bit insecure and tired, and for a minute, on my sofa, in the comfort of my living room, I contemplated not showing up.

It’s a natural temptation, when presented with doing something different, something heretofore unknown to you, to begin thinking of reasons to excuse yourself from participation. We fear the awkwardness and embarrassment of meeting new people, the pain of feeling like an outsider in a world of insiders, and in the case of politics, that either we don’t know enough about the issues to fully participate, or that perhaps, we’re just not the political sort of person after all. And because we fear these things, our natural inclination is to protect ourselves, or at the very least, save ourselves the trouble of experiencing the discomfort that comes with putting ourselves in new kinds of situations.

We’re all, to some extent, political beings, because we’re social beings, but for decades, a political culture has developed which has felt exclusionary to most people. The current political culture, which drapes itself in a slick veneer of suits and spun rhetoric, can leave the average person feeling distant from, if not intimidated by, the workings of democracy. Currently, only one percent of the UK electorate belongs to a political party, one of the lowest rates in Europe. With a system that’s dependent on robust party politics, this isn’t good for democracy, and it’s not good for the country. Part of the appeal of the new Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is his ability to make people feel that politics belongs to more than simply a Westminster elite. Incidentally, I voted for Yvette Cooper, but having seen Corbyn speak at our Christians on the Left service, I think I understand his overwhelming appeal. When people say they’re drawn to his authenticity, they mean, at least partly, that he looks like people they know, and talks like people they know, and even more important, that they feel they can belong to, and will be included by, the political community he represents.

Relationships and a sense of belonging are crucial aspects to building a healthy democratic culture, but for those new to politics, it can be hard to figure out how to move from a position of feeling on the outside, towards a feeling of inclusion. This is the type of question those already involved in politics should be helping newcomers to answer, and the answer usually has something to do with commitment, responsibility and relationships. Mark Scott, writing in Christianity Today, talks about getting involved in politics as setting out on a pilgrimage. “A political pilgrimage,” he says, “awaits those who want to engage beyond the election. It's a slow journey, embarked upon in community with others, working together for the common good.” I have a lot of political energy, I engage in heated debate on social media, and I read intensively about current affairs. But as Scott puts it, the political pilgrimage begins in the presence of others: “It's about showing up now that the attention has shifted but the real work has begun.”

I feel very blessed that my political pilgrimage in British politics was initiated by Christians on the Left. In my situation, being new to London and new to Labour, I’d feel really at a loss as to how to crack into politics, and build the friendships and acquaintanceships necessary to get involved if I hadn’t connected with Andy and others. In the end, I got on the train, because I felt that, no matter how awkward or uncomfortable I may feel, it’s important that I show up and contribute. And the end result? Not only did I meet MPs, councilors and activists who inspired me and introduced me to different ways to progress on my pilgrimage, but I had the opportunity to take responsibility for encouraging others to get involved with Labour and Christians on the Left. I also made new friends and saw old friends. The experience was one of joy and belonging. Since returning, I’ve registered my address with central office, and I now await my new member pack and my first constituency party meeting. The real work has just begun.

Add your reaction Share

Organising for the common good

graham_hunter_300_wide.jpg'Organising for the common good' is a sermon that Revd Graham Hunter gave at the Chapel Service of the Tulpuddle Festival in July. He encourages us to to work with Christ to ‘repave the road to Jericho’ that it may be safe for others. 


It’s an honour to be invited to speak with you this evening at the annual Tolpuddle Festival. It’s a festival with emotional resonance for me – for although this is my first visit, and I’m not actively involved in the Trade Unions movement, I remember my step mother’s collection of political plates which adorned the walls of the living-room and stairs while I was growing up – and which included a ‘Tolpuddle Martyrs’ plate.

I’m not active in the Trade Union movement, but I am active in Citizens UK – the home of broad-based community organising in this country. I serve on the Executive Committee of my local Hackney Citizens branch, and I’m involved in delivering training for new members and organisers. I’m also an Anglican priest – a representative of a body which has not always been sympathetic to those who agitate for political reform and change. However, I’m a Vicar in Hoxton, which – situated just outside the historic City of London – has historically been a hotbed of political dissent.

I see Community Organising as a natural and necessary counterpart to the Trade Unions movement. Indeed a renewal and continuation of the tradition. It’s necessary, because many people do not identify themselves as located within one trade or sector such as are typically represented by unions. Rather, they assimilate and integrate to other institutions: schools and college, residents associations, churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other institutional bodies for voluntary association. Natural because we share an appetite for justice and equality.

Indeed, the same things could be said of the relationship between Community Organising and the Christian church. The are natural and necessary bedfellows, and the methodologies of Community Organising actually help the Church to be the Church.

Citizens UK community organisers were behind perhaps the most notable and recognisable of its campaigns – that for a nationally recognised ‘Living Wage’ to which employers and associations could be persuaded voluntarily to subscribe. The ‘Living Wage’ is a campaign not of the market nor the state, but rather of civic society – citizens acting together for their common good.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Does Assisting Dying, Eradicate Suffering?

Haydon Spenceley's opinion on the Assisted Dying Bill. 

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Foolishness to Greeks: Article on the Assisted Dying Bill

On 11 September a Private Members Bill will be debated in the House of Commons. This Bill, an attempt to legalise a means of assisted dying is of immense significance. Through the heart of this debate run themes which are shaping public policy in our nation; attempting to normalise pre-suppositions that do not accord with a Christian worldview.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Sunday Trading Proposals - #oursunday

Why we need to protect Sunday.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Assisted Dying

Assisted dying: retrogressive, not progressive; nihilism, not liberalism

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Knowing our history

Levellers-Pamphlets1.jpgAs a student of history, it often amazes me how Christianity has been viewed in the past and present.  It certainly does not have a past of roses and perfection, but in this day and age, is it just seen as dark and depressing?  Well if it is, then it really shouldn’t!  As a historian with a keen interest in the Early Modern Period, I would like to bring to your attention, the levellers, and the diggers in the 1640s.

Read more
Add your reaction Share

Just Mercy - by Bryan Stevenson

Along with creating a blog space, we have been asking members to contribute book reviews to help inspire and challenge each other. Terry Wynn one of our members, reviews 'Just Mercy' by Bryan Stevenson. 

justmercy.jpg"Bryan Stevenson is America's young Nelson Mandela----A brilliant lawyer fighting with courage and conviction to guarantee justice for all."
So says Desmond Tutu on the front cover of this riveting book. If you are a fan of John Grisham then this is a real life Grisham hero. In fact Grisham says this about him, "Not since Atticus Finch has a fearless and committed lawyer made such a difference in the American South. Though larger than life, Atticus exists only in fiction. Bryan Stevenson, however, is very much alive and doing God's work fighting for the poor, the oppressed, the voiceless, the vulnerable, the outcast, and those with no hope. JUST MERCY is his inspiring and powerful story." And so it is, as it gives us an incite into the injustices of the US Justice system, especially when it comes to death row cases and life without parole sentences where young teenagers are involved.

It's a book that will move you to scream at some of the judgements and the aftermath that Stevenson takes on. The USA has the biggest prison population in the world with over 2,000,000 behind bars. One in every fifteen people goes to prison and for black men this rises to one in
three. Just about his first case concerns a black man on death row who maintains his innocence. He repeatedly comes back to this case throughout the book until you eventually find out the final outcome, which I won't spoil by stating what it is here.

Segregation was part of his upbringing and he is determined to fight for those in the most desperate need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of the US criminal justice system. Once you've read this book, you won't forget it. It's a remarkable account of a man driven by his faith to see justice done, no matter how long it takes and no matter how lost the cause may seem to others."


Add your reaction Share

UK and Labour’s Future

labour_market_2020_7b2c0be0d6ef0ca56a1762125c02ce3b.jpgWe need a vision of what Britain and the world will be like in 5 years time and be ready for a mandate from a desperate country to implement policies that we believe in.

Read more
3 reactions Share

Who is that boy? Faraway wars and Western media

CG5rR3MWQAA-12q.jpgVicky Walker writes a thought provoking piece objecting to advertising that co-opts images of children in war zones to sell contact lenses. A link to the reference can be found here.

Last Saturday I listened to Katie, who works with an NGO in war-ravaged countries, describe the mind-blowingly desperate situations in which people find themselves when their homes, communities, families, and societies are destroyed. 

Read more
Add your reaction Share

← Previous  1  2    8  9  10  11  12  13  14  15  16  17  18  19  Next →