In the centre of Hoddesdon is a disused Quaker meeting house, now a listed building in a very attractive historical setting. I once attended a service there and felt, I must admit, quite fidgety during an hour of ‘silence’. Just next door, and connected to it, is the original warden’s cottage – Peace Cottage - and its large garden. A Quaker group from Welwyn Garden City has been trying over the years to decide what use the buildings could be put to but arrived at no workable solution - until just recently, following the Broxbourne Winter Night Shelter making use of the building in 2020 as a drop in day facility.
Now interest in the building has broadened dramatically. Local churches and residents are getting involved and finance is being sought. We have had an initial ‘meeting of minds’. People from different walks of life are coming together to work for the common good, the result being, hopefully, a community centre and garden where all sorts of activities take place, benefiting all sorts of people. Plans include a community café, arts groups, theatre performances, advice hubs for unemployed and homeless people, support for people with mental health issues, outdoor learning opportunities for children.
Working for the common good is a Biblical concept. The 4th century preacher John Chrysostom wrote ‘this is the rule of most perfect Christianity, its most exact definition, its highest point, namely, the seeking of the common good’. In the book of Acts, chapter 2, we read that ‘all who believed …. had all things in common’. People came together to share. Sharing hopes and ideas is the essence of the common good. It becomes a witness to God’s work in the world. It helps to make God known.
Many churches are involved in practical work in their neighbourhoods. One benefit of this is that it brings church communities together. Jesus, in John chapter 17, prays that the church may be ‘one’, that it might be united in itself and in its outreach. In working for the common good, Christians come together, often with people of other faiths or none, resulting in bonds that are strengthened and visions that are realised. People take risks and find that God is in every venture.
Collaborative work for God reminds us too that we are all one family. In Peter’s 2nd letter, chapter 2, he tells us that we are all ‘holy …. God’s own people’. Holiness involves seeking peace and justice in society. Holiness reflects the values of God’s kingdom. Holy people show, in working for the common good, what a just and peaceful society actually looks like. Through their work they glorify God.
There is a need now to rebuild communities, communities of church and society. We have opportunities to work better together. How can we do that? Can we watch out for opportunities amongst our churches, and in our separate locations, to come together to work in new ways for the common good? Pray for God to give us the enthusiasm to get involved wherever we can, to be God’s witness in the world.