This was not the end, but just the beginning

A few weeks ago, London Citizens organised the Mayoral Assembly at the Copper Box. The aim was to gather 6000 citizens to build good relationships with the candidates, thus the possible future mayor, and to ask them to take commitment to work with us. Both candidates answered positively to several of our requests. And this event was not the end, but just the beginning.

Now that Sadiq Khan has been elected as mayor, the main challenge  is to start working with him and to build good relationships, characterised by accountability. This is why London Citizens decided to welcome the new Mayor and his staff, with breakfast, on his first day to work at the London City Hall!

Continue reading “This was not the end, but just the beginning”

Banding towards justice: when the band does politics and why it matters

Guest post by Paul Williams

CitizensUK_MayoralAssembly_©ChrisJepson_168The William Booth College band was proud to represent the college and the wider Salvation Army at the London Mayoral Assembly organised by London Citizens.

CitizensUK_MayoralAssembly_©ChrisJepson_017The purpose of this assembly was to get the two frontrunners in the race for London Mayor to agree to ‘asks’ outlined in the London Citizens Manifesto. These ‘asks’, which are developed from the grassroots, focussed on the living wage, citizenship and integration, training and employment prospects for young people and housing.

Live music certainly adds to the excitement of any event. The band, along with a massed children’s choir and vocal groups from other faith and community groups, performed a variety of music in the lead up to the main event.

A particularly poignant and reflective moment was a multimedia presentation about issues surrounding housing in London, including the story of Church of England priest and housing reformer Basil Jellicoe. The band accompanied this presentation with the hymn tune ‘Repton’ which added to the solemnity of the CitizensUK_MayoralAssembly_©ChrisJepson_004moment. A twitter comment stated that you could recognise the sound of a Salvation Army band a mile off!

It was a privilege for the band to take part in this distinctly Salvationist way. But, more to the point, we had the opportunity to show that we want to be involved with our elected representatives (and hold them to account) and that, ultimately, we are committed to justice and want everyone to experience life in all its fullness.

U2’s Bono once said that ‘Music can change the world because it can change people’. We certainly hope that we, as a band, played our part in bringing about change in London.

Should church leaders declare party political allegiance?

Party politicsBy Sam Tomlin

This was a post initially published about 18 months ago here. I thought I would re-publish it on matchfactory.org to raise the issue specifically in a Salvationist setting, and also because I have had some more thoughts since I wrote the original post.

The church’s relationship with politics has always been a tricky business. Many Christians simply disengage, thinking it has nothing to do with the spiritual task of the church and God in the world. I would argue strongly against this, with many others, suggesting the gospel is a significantly political proclamation as much as it is a ‘spiritual’ one (if indeed it is possible or helpful to separate the two).

But politics and party politics are subtly different things. Most Christians have opinions, however strong, on issues of defence, welfare, taxation, and if not those, certainly on same-sex marriage and abortion. These views will broadly put us in a traditionally viewed ‘camp’, be it ‘left’, ‘right’, ‘liberal’ etc.

For some, this is as far as it goes, but for others it will lead to allegiance to or even membership of a political party which, again broadly, encompasses these views we have on a variety of subjects. A party will have a set of concrete policies at any one time that supporters will (in theory) be endorsing. Clearly this is not always the case, but it does help differentiate between a political ideology (or set of values) and a party, the former concerning theory and the latter its application. Continue reading “Should church leaders declare party political allegiance?”

When The Salvation Army took risks and why it matters

By Nick Coke

We all love a bit of Salvation Army history don’t we? When I was doing some research for the first chapter of ‘Marching Towards Justice’ I learnt a few details about Salvation Army justice-seeking I hadn’t known – you’ll have to read it to see what I found out! More recently I received a short book in the post from my brother-in-law entitled ‘Social Evils The Army Has Challenged’. Written by S Carvosso Gauntlett in 1946, it tells seven stories of how The Salvation Army went about challenging the status quo and bringing about social change. The writer takes us from Britain to Japan, India and French Guiana covering a period from 1880-1933. This blog is too short to share everything but what comes across throughout is the role risk-taking plays in order to bring change.

In the foreword, General Carpenter, writes:220px-General_George_Carpenter

‘William Booth was by no means opposed to, in fact welcomed, the plans for social improvement based on Education, Trade Unions, Co-operation, Socialism and so on; in fact, almost anything short of violent revolution.’

Seems to me that back in the day our forebears didn’t see the possibility of social change as a mere hope or dream but rather a reality that was eminently possible with the right approach. There was a confidence that came with personal conviction, spiritual power and a collective commitment to the cause. It also appears that because of this, taking risks was simply a natural part of the process required to achieve just and righteous ends.

Take the ‘Maiden Tribute’ Campaign, for example, or as it was known in the 1880s – The Purity Agitation (I love that!). This was the fight to force the British government to raise the age of sexual consent as a protection for trafficked and abused children. Bramwell and Florence Booth who spear-headed the campaign did so from the grassroots. Twenty-three year old Florence, the pioneer leader of women’s social services, was so outraged by the stories she heard at the home for rescued women in Whitechapel that she encouraged her husband to go and find out for himself what was happening. So, the chief of staff, took to wandering in certain neighbourhoods in disguise ‘wading’ as he put it ‘through a sea of sin and defilement’. At the end of his listening campaign he concluded:

‘No matter what the consequences might be, I would do all I could to stop those abominations, to rouse public opinion, to agitate for an improvement of the law.’

bramwellHe was as good as his word. The remarkable campaign that followed with help from reformer Josephine Butler, journalist W T Stead and Salvationists up and down the land brought about a change in the law. The campaign involved the publishing of shocking stories in the press, a 2 mile long petition delivered to the door of parliament and the buying of a child. Yes, that’s buying a child – to prove it could be done in London for £5. The result of that action was a date in court for Bramwell. After a 12 day trial that held the attention of the country, he was acquitted, although Stead was jailed for 3 months. At the time many feared it would be the end of The Salvation Army with the Founder’s Son and Chief of Staff in the dock of the Central Criminal Court. And yet as Bramwell later reflected when General:

‘The trial did the Army a great deal of good. It made us known, and put us at one stroke in the very front rank of those who were contending for the better treatment of the lost and the poor… Our work for women was greatly furthered… We knew…. that the Queen followed the proceedings with great concern and sympathy. The case opened doors for us also in the overseas dominions and in the US.’

All this makes me wonder what place risk-taking has in our cause of justice-seeking today? A risk-averse culture will help us to maintain the status-quo and keep our friends happy but it won’t bring about change. It occurs to me that we have as much to lose by not taking risks as we do by taking them. When we stay silent on an issue that we really should be speaking up about then we become complicit with the wrong itself. That may not damage our brand but I wonder what it does to our souls? I want to admit here to longing for some of that confidence from the early days – a confidence in the spiritual power to overcome ‘social evils’ of our time, to ‘stop abominations, to rouse public opinion, and to agitate for an improvement of the law.’ Lord, give us a vision for your kingdom here on earth, motivate us to action and remove our fear. Amen.

South London Citizens Assembly at William Booth College

By Sam Tomlin

SLondonCit

Where in our society do you see, on a frequent basis, Christians, Jews, Muslims, agnostics and atheists, young and old, people from all different social backgrounds choosing to come together to share common experiences and desires, despite all our differences? The answer is somewhere on the narrow spectrum of rarely to never. In a world which appears increasingly divided and suspicious of those who are not like ‘us’, the significance of such events should not be underestimated.

On Wednesday night, the South London chapter of Citizens UK met for its Delegates Assembly at the Salvation Army training college in Denmark Hill to do just this, albeit on a larger scale than your average monthly meeting. Nearly 250 people were packed into the main meeting hall, representing the dozens of institutions that make up South London Citizens. Four Salvation Army institutions were represented: William Booth College along with Southwark, Camberwell and Nunhead corps – and Major Mark Rose, Business Services Director of WBC, welcomed all at the start and was part of the event organising team. Continue reading “South London Citizens Assembly at William Booth College”

Win for #1000B4Xmas campaign

By John Clifton

We are delighted that the Prime Minister has announced the following:

“We want to see 1,000 refugees brought to Britain by Christmas” –

See more at: https://www.politicshome.com/home-affairs/articles/story/david-cameron-bishops-are-wrong-over-syrian-crisis#sthash.GztFbr2X.dpuf

This is wonderful news and credit to power of organised people. We’re proud that Salvationists have been a part of the #1000B4Xmas campaign, alongside all the other member institutions of Citizens UK! Continue reading “Win for #1000B4Xmas campaign”

Salvationists join with nearly 900 others for #refugeeswelcome vigil action to settle #1000b4Xmas

By John Clifton

On Tuesday, Salvationists from a number of different Corps (Ilford, Raynes Park, Stepney, Camberwell, Southwark) as well as William Booth College & Territorial Headquarters joined with nearly 900 organised people from member institutions of civil society alliance, Citizens UK.  We came together at Old Palace Yard, Westminster near Houses of Parliament to remember the 6 children who froze to death in the Syrian refugee camps last winter.  We also came to present three asks to our Prime Minister and government in relation to Syrian refugees and the United Kingdom.  These asks were:IMG_0217

  1.  Will you resettle at least 1000 Syrians by Christmas?
  2.  The government has recently announced the creation of a private refugee sponsorship scheme. Will you work with Citizens UK to make sure that any privately sponsored refugees are in addition to the 20 ,000 that the government has already committed to?
  3.  Will you continue to work with Citizens UK to make sure that Britain plays a full and leading role in responding to this crisis as long as it endures?

Continue reading “Salvationists join with nearly 900 others for #refugeeswelcome vigil action to settle #1000b4Xmas”