Been to a good conference today over in Manchester at the GMCVO about the faith sector, the voluntary sector and Big Society. Not really much in the way of contextualising on the Big Society stuff but lots of nice stuff about how valuable faith volunteers are and the massive number of hours people put in to volunteering as they try and live out God's mission in the world. I think sometimes clergy judge their congregations harshly because we don't see or hear about all this volunteering - so it's hard to work out how our congregations are linking words in church to works in the world. It's great to hear such positive affirmation from people working outside the church and a reminder not to make assumptions just because people don't crow about the ways they support their communities. It was interesting that I was the only person there who was officially there to represent a church - although one or two others in my workshops fessed up to being there both in a professional capacity as those managing volunteers at work and in a personal capacity as people who volunteered through their churches.
Dr Phil Henry, the centre director of the Multi-faith Centre at the Univesity of Derby also said some interesting stuff about Sharing It Forward - which he traced back as a concept to 4th century Greece but I think most of us would recognise it more clearly as paying it forward - as in the 2000 film of the same name. This essentially seems to be a way of encouraging people in the voluntary sector and faith sector to be communicative, to share skills, knowledge and expertise with others, to enable focus of skills and resources by preventing duplication and hours spent re-learning something that the project which just ran out of money already knew. It involves legacy planning, networking, sharing best practice - all that kind of stuff. All seems very common sense stuff.
Did find myself halfway through the second workshop thinking that everything they were saying was Good News - it was about sharing, letting go, not building up personal power and security at the expense of people really in need - it was about taking the risk and not worrying about the occasional slap down. It also made me wonder about my institution, where there seems to be a sense that some of these things are either unattainable or undesirable - hand overs? Legacy planning? It takes years to get to know a parish, and every priest is different, yes, but couldn't we save a lot of time and effort on the practical/organisational side of church life by thinking about such things?