November 12, 2015

A GOOD SOCIETY  –  How can we build it together?

This was the title and question being discussed at the event organised by the Church in Society group of the Diocese which was held on Saturday 31st October in the Cathedral Old Boys’ School.

The inspiration for the meeting came from the CTBI report ( which can be viewed on agoodsociety.org) and the toolkit for conversations provided by Church Action on Poverty.

Over 40 people attended comprising representatives and individuals from various community groups, churches, a wide range of professions, other faiths, professionals and local councillors. We began with a welcome by Bishop Mark and introduction by Val Dunford chair of the Church in Society group.

Before any discussion we watched and listened to a clip from Jean Vanier’s speech when he was awarded the Templeton prize for peace. He spoke movingly and powerfully about community.

Five people had been invited to join in an initial conversation led by Rev David Balfour. They were Rev Iain Macritchie, hospital chaplain, Alex Graham – member Highland council, Alan Rooney – member of Inverness mosque and works at CAB, Karrie Marshall  – Creativity in Care and Allan Dunbar, Christians Against Poverty.   They shared their vision of a good society with overlapping themes of reaching out to people around you, inclusion and acceptance of difference, compassion, security and sharing.

They were then asked to give some practical examples of good society in action from their experience which included working with organisations to make dementia friendly communities, creative writing for people with mental health difficulties, negotiating about debt relief, provision of food to people in need, opening of the mosque as a space for people to have a time of quiet and peace, 9 lives project bringing people of all ages together to consider community history and identity and what gives a sense of hope..

We were reminded of a speech given by Dr Harry Burns Chief Medical Officer before his retiral when he spoke of five major issues for society to address which were sexual health, dementia and aging issues, depression, addiction problems, and spiritual malaise.

Having been given a huge amount of information to ponder we then broke into small groups for people to have the opportunity to talk about what we had heard and to discuss their ideas of what needed to happen to bring about a good society and any suggestions for change or action. Common themes emerged from the groups – the importance of listening and sharing, being prepared to show our vulnerabilities, building up relationships of trust, sharing food and building resilient communities. It was acknowledged that all of this takes time but that we were making a start and there were good things happening. The Church in Society group will be sending more detailed feedback to Church Action on Poverty which we hope will be an influence in national policy and we plan to organise other events to build on the connections and ideas made so positively at this one.

I will finish with two quotes from the group I was facilitating which are African in origin, and which seem to me to be very pertinent to the whole subject of a good society “You need a village to raise a child.”  “If you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.”

Mairi Cuthbert

PS Church in Society group hope to have another event in February to follow on from the above – look out for further details. For information about meetings contact :  valandpip@reiskmore.freeserve.co.uk