Reviewing your Church

Churches Working Together from Westminster Justice & Peace on Vimeo.

  • Download the video transcript here.
  • Download a pdf file of this resource here.

Justice and Peace is integral to the mission of the whole Church and essential to the life of a Christian. Scripture and Christian tradition place social concern at the heart of the Christian life, and social concern is mentioned frequently in our worship. The question is: do our actions match our words? How far is active social concern at the heart of our daily lives, and central to the life of the faith community with which we worship? Does our parish offer to its members the vision and the encouragement to become engaged in justice and peace issues as a core part of our Christian vocation? How far could it be said that our daily life contributes to a transformation of the vision of others to the message of Christ? In short, are we really ‘walking the talk’? To answer that we need to take stock of how far we and our community match up to Our Lord’s teaching and example to get engaged. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, the Anglican Communion identified five imperatives of the Christian life, called the Five Marks of Mission, and recommended that all parishes measure themselves from time to time against those core Christian priorities, viz.:

  1. to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God;
  2. to teach, baptise and nurture new believers;
  3. to respond to human need by loving service;
  4. to seek to transform the unjust structures of society; and
  5. to strive to safe-guard the integrity of creation and to sustain and renew the life of the earth.

While we can see that the first two Marks above implicitly contemplate concern for social justice (Luke 4: ‘I have come to proclaim good news to the poor…’ and Luke 10: ‘you must love your neighbour as yourself…’), Marks 3, 4 and 5 expressly call on us to get involved in such concerns.

The questions below have been devised to help church groups identify and celebrate what they are already doing. They also provide an opportunity for discerning new ways of living out our Gospel values. The working format of these questions is available in Appendix I.

1. How do we and our parish proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God?

  • Whenever we pray ‘Thy Kingdom come’ in the Lord’s Prayer, do we reflect on the priorities of the Kingdom of God, in which power is used to serve, to lift burdens, to heal and free people from personal and structural sin, in complete contradiction to those of any earthly kingdom, in which power is used to glorify those who possess it and to oppress the poor?
  • Do our parish liturgies emphasise the Church’s belief that working for peace and justice and making others aware of the message of Christ in the gospels is central to preaching the Gospel and to Christian life? Does the parish link its concern for the integrity of creation with its liturgies? Do we pray for the oppressed and disadvantaged in our own parish, in the UK or overseas? Do we devote parish liturgies to raising awareness of the good news of Christ?
  • Do we make all social, age and cultural communities feel comfortable and welcome in our parish liturgy and social functions? Are there any communities which are not represented ever, and, if so, why?
  • Is social concern regularly emphasised and strengthened by missions or retreats to our parish, or by acts of joint witness, shared with members of neighbouring churches and faiths and with people of no faith? Do we look for opportunities to share with the wider world a vision of a preferential option for the poor?

2. Does concern for social justice in our parish inform and contribute to the teaching, baptism and nurturing of new believers?

  • Do we instinctively welcome visitors and new faces in our church and take an active interest to get to know them and explore with them the opportunities offered of deepening faith by engaging in matters of social concern? Do we need to arrange parish structures to underpin such goals?
  • Is our local school committed to the aims of social and racial integration, and respect, awareness and sensitivity of each other and other cultures? Is that commitment expressed prominently anywhere? Are developmental studies and peace studies an integral part of the curriculum? How can its admissions policy be made to reflect better a priority for the poor and disadvantaged?
  • Is the parish youth work oriented towards involving young people in issues of peace and justice? Are the children introduced to ways in which they can commit their energies and idealism to resolving conflict or injustice?
  • Do we include Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation in our catechetical programmes, e.g. Baptism, Confirmation, Lent Groups.

3. How does our parish respond to human need by loving service?

  • Is there a sufficient provision of individuals in the parish willing to visit and to provide help to the sick, the lonely, the disabled, the housebound and the elderly? Is there a St Vincent de Paul society, or similar carers’ network, in the parish? Is there a bereavement group? A group for the divorced and separated, or for single parents? A youth club? An Alcoholics Anonymous group? A group for refugees from overseas?
  • Is there an effective system for those in need to make the parish aware of the human need in its midst?
  • Is there a system for attempting to match individual parishioners to tasks relevant to their particular talents and capacity for the benefit of others?
  • Does the parish encourage participation in local or national associations to raise funds for the relief of local, national and international emergencies and disasters?

4. What does our parish do to transform the unjust structures of society in the UK and the wider world?

  • Do we have systems in place to identify unjust structures? Is there a justice and peace group in the parish to encourage, support and sustain the efforts of individuals and groups who seek to raise awareness and to campaign on justice issues within the parish? Is there a group that works with, and supports, agencies such as CAFOD, Christian Aid, The Fairtrade Foundation and Pax Christi?
  • Do members of your church take an active part in national or local initiatives concerning issues overseas of repression, conflict, the structural injustices of international trade, debt and aid, disease and handicap, or the arms trade and the consequences of war around the world, or injustices in this country in relation to such issues as race, asylum seekers, discrimination, inadequate educational opportunities or prejudice against, or exploitation of, deprived sections of society?

5. What encouragement does our parish give to the safeguarding of the integrity of creation and the sustaining and renewal of life on earth?

  • Has the parish carried out an environmental audit of its property, its use of technology and energy and the recycling of material for which it has no continuing need?
  • Has the parish done all that it can to reduce consumption of and dependence on electricity, gas and fossil fuels, to conserve heat by insulation and in environmentally sustainable ways?
  • Does the parish have a group which campaigns with any of the environmental and ecological associations listed in the Resources Section?
  • Is there encouragement for individuals to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle and reduce their carbon footprint?