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Sermon to the Court of Common Council

As part of his year as Chaplain to the Sheriff of London, Josh preached to the Court of Common Council at a service on St Mark's Day including the Lord Mayor, Alderwomen and Aldermen, and Councillors as well as officers of the Corporation of London, at St Lawrence Jewry.


The reading was 1 Corinthians 12:12-26.


The City of London is a hugely successful common enterprise. As our current Lord Mayor likes to say, it is ‘the world’s oldest democratic workers’ and residents’ cooperative’. And it has produced exceptional riches – not only financial, but historic, cultural, political, for the wider UK and indeed the world.

 

At the heart of the City is this Corporation. This body of government, made of many parts.

 

The wards which you represent: each one is shaped by the stories of its people, its distinctive character and contribution to the City. The unique voices of those who live and work and visit your neighbourhoods: these are heard in the City’s deliberations because you represent them.

 

This takes a lot of listening, a lot of attention, to be a Councillor, or to be an Alderwoman or Alderman. You will know well the temptation to listen only to the voices who soothe our ears, who tell us what we want to hear, who speak like us. But if our listening is partial, we miss the gifts that other parts of the body bring.

 

Listening is needed because it is too easy otherwise to forget what you here

know better than most: that the City’s success is a shared achievement. The combination of ingenuity and industry which characterises our businesses; the advocacy of our political leaders; the rule of law underpinned by our legal system; the civic and religious institutions who provide the holistic support and community which diverse residents and workers need to thrive.

 

All playing their part in building our shared prosperity.

 

This Corporation – this body – is made of many parts who contribute.

 

The modern City’s success is built on services. But not only the services we think of as a product of the City: legal services, accountancy, consultancy, insurance, and so on. There are as well the other services on which all of us rely each day: cleaners, concierges and security guards, caterers, couriers and cab drivers, baristas, street sweepers and supermarket shelf fillers.

 

Such service workers underpin our experience of this City as a pleasant and vibrant place to live, work, and enjoy life. But they are more than their function: like so many of us, these workers have come to the City with dreams and hopes, with a hunger for its success and a contribution to make.

 

The church which I lead, St Katharine Cree, is the Guild Church for Workers, and we provide a space for all workers, of every background and occupation to come together as friends, colleagues, fellow members of the body we to which we together belong. But we have a particular role in supporting service workers to gather to share their stories, to encourage one another, to pray, to build relationships of exchange and mutual respect and trust. Our busiest activities are free English classes for migrant workers so they can take part more in City life. There is an appetite not only to learn the language and get along in work, but to contribute widely, to be recognised and seen and listened to as those with a stake in this place, with a part to play.

 

We are training people in our community of service workers as leaders, not out of sympathy – although many have been victims of abuse, and face the challenges that first generation migrants often do – but because they are gifted people who are gifts to this body. They are strong, purposeful, full of faith and hope, and have a vision for contributing to our shared success. Perhaps one day some of them might join you as Common Councillors.

 

Meanwhile, together with other churches and institutions in the City we have begun a season of listening – holding more than one hundred face to face conversations with service workers over the next month – to hear not only their needs but their hopes and dreams for this City, and their part in it, as well. If you would like to be part of this listening process, or to learn what we hear, then let’s talk.

 

But for now, for today, may we together listen to every member of this body of which we are part, remembering that ‘those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable’, that we might receive the gift they have for us, and we might be open to the gift we need to be to each other.

 

May our Lord Jesus Christ bless you in your listening, bless you in your service, and bless you through the others who share in our corporate life together in this City of London.

 

Amen.


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