Why would a Vicar go Business Networking?
What’s a Vicar doing here?
That’s what everyone wanted to know as I networked at a recent meeting. You could say that I was there to get good value out of the subscription that my organisation, the Black Country Urban Industrial Mission, pays to the Chamber. But why are we members of the Chamber of Commerce?
Our mission statement is “Connecting Church and the Economy.” One way we do this is as our team of chaplains visit industrial and commercial concerns throughout the Black Country. We are there for people, offering opportunities for discussion about the issues they face, be they personal or work related. We also seek to be engaged with neighbourhood renewal and community development, and with the bodies that connect people and businesses or make far reaching decisions about the area and its future.
Our faith traditions inevitably shape the perspectives we bring to this work, and we are able to take an understanding of economic and commercial reality back to the wider church. Many people in churches live with a "sacred-secular divide" which isn't helpful and has led to church and faith having little place in many people's lives today.
Economics is one mechanism that allows us to relate with other people, most of whom we will never meet. The turbulent events of the financial crisis which began 10 years ago with the collapse of Northern Rock have shown that you cannot separate economic ideas from the reality of people's lives, their motivations and hopes. Business is not simply a machine where money goes off into a virtual world that is not our concern, with profit coming back. In the view of one leading economist (Amartya Sen of Cambridge), “Economics … can be made more productive by paying greater and more explicit attention to the ethical considerations that shape human behaviour and judgment.”
This isn’t to suggest that religious thought can solve particular economic questions, but the Christian faith has always had an understanding of what human well being looks like, and how we can best function together in society. We do have a view to bring to discussions, and we have a vast experience of caring for people, simply as people rather than a human resource.
As Clive Wright puts in in "The Business of Virtue", "Business should take heed of religious wisdom, because it codifies centuries of moral understanding and has rich insights to offer about the tension between private interest and the public good, a tension which epitomises modern capitalism."
That’s why a vicar was networking.