Together for the Common Good Towards a National Conversation Study Guide When there’s so much we disagree about, how are we going to work together? This book comes out of the wider Together for the Common Good project which seeks to encourage and equip people to come together across their differences to respect each other, to learn alongside each other and to work as agents of change for the common good. Bringing together some of the leading thinkers from across the Christian denominations, Jewish, Muslim and secular traditions, this book is intended as a conversation opener to prompt fruitful discussion that leads to transformation as more and more people take responsibility for the common good. These questions are written both for individuals and groups who might wish to study the book. If you are running a group, here are a few thoughts about what could help it go well… •K eep it punctual: 60 or 90 minutes is a good length for a session. Don’t let it over-run. If you are looking at several chapters in one session, be mindful of how much time is needed for each. • I dentify a good chair: Find someone who is good at chairing – who will draw everyone into the conversation, stop any one voice dominating, and move through the various questions and topics at an appropriate pace. This may or may not be the person who has drawn the group together. •B e pro-active in recruiting to the group: Think carefully about who would contribute well to, and benefit from, discussion of the book – and in particular, whether the group can include people from different traditions. This will enrich discussion of the different chapters, and may make it easier to move from conversation to common action. • I nclude everyone from the start: At each session, the chair should ask everyone to make an initial contribution – responding briefly to one or two opening sessions, before getting into a more free-flowing discussion. Making sure every voice is heard is vital. •E ncourage people to be honest if they haven’t understood some of what they have read: Usually, when people are brave enough to admit confusion, other more reticent members of the group will be relieved! It is important to help people to feel comfortable expressing such uncertainty. •K eep it grounded: In the Introduction, the book’s editors say that ‘We want to give impetus to a “wide-ranging conversation”’ in which ‘the ultimate objective is change, change not talk’. It is important to link the conversations, where possible, to action that people might realistically take. We suggest that you begin your first session asking everyone to answer two simple questions, before you get into any discussion of the book itself. These are: What has motivated you to read this book? and What, in your community and in the wider society, do you think needs to change? What is your immediate reaction to the phrase ‘common good’? What do you understand by it? What positive and negative associations does it have?
The Foreword – Julia Neuberger Neuberger writes that ‘The common good, differently expressed, can be found in all our faiths. But the question remains of how it should be made real, who needs to take ownership of it, and how easy it is to make a difference when public attitudes seem to be shying away from any such concept.’ Do you agree that the idea is found in your faith or worldview? If so, what do you understand it to mean? Do you agree that public attitudes are shying away from the idea? If so, why do think that is? The Introduction – Peter McGrail and Nicholas Sagovsky In a city with a history of sectarian division, Bishop David Sheppard and Archbishop Derek Worlock worked across their denominational and theological differences for the benefit of the people of Liverpool. How does the story of their partnership, as retold here, help you to understand the idea of the ‘common good’ – and the ways in which we can work together for the common good today?
Part One: The Language of the Common Good Chapter 1: The Language of the Common Good – Anna Rowlands Rowla