The Next Step: Getting involved in Government & Politics after university
Alasdair Howorth, from Christians in Politics, shares his thoughts on the influence of the Christian community and an exciting opportunity to get further involved.
A couple weeks ago, as part of my role as a community organiser for a church in North London, I participated in a community meeting held in the local town hall. In the months previous, various communities had been running conversations with their members. This meeting was the coming together of all the conversations happening around the borough. It was an opportunity for us to share what had come out of our various conversations and share them with our local politicians so we could work together to find solutions to the issues our community faces.
The event was a great success and we heard commitments from local ward councillors that they would support and work with various local initiatives. We have since had many communities obtain funding from central government to continue the good work that they have been doing, or start new initiatives to support people all across the community.
However, for me, the success of the event wasn’t simply found in the outcome, but rather in the attendance of the meeting itself. As part of the meeting we did some ice breaking exercises to see who was actually present. The diversity of participants was remarkable, with over half of the nearly 100 attendees being born overseas (myself included) and seemingly every category of faith, race, and economic class present. What struck me more than anything was when we were asked what faith group we were a part of. There were people present of nearly every major (and some minor) faiths present and almost half were Christians, but there was only one person of no faith.
As someone who did not grow up in the UK, I had been repeatedly told that the UK was a place of secularisation and a dying out of faith (particularly the mainstream Christian church). While that may be true, what was abundantly clear was the influence the church has as a positive social and political force. We as Christians in the UK have a huge amount of power, not because we are any more capable or special from others, but simply by the fact that we naturally form a cohesive civic institution. Not only that, we form a civic institution with a mandate to serve others and transform our country for the better with a bias to the poor and oppressed, whoever they may be. We do not simply meet for our own gain, but for the gain of all of those around us. We seek to share the good news of Jesus, in our words and in our deeds.
In election time we often talk about the power of individual voters and our capacity and responsibility to change politics through voting. While this is true and should never be underplayed, I want us to reflect on the political power that we possess corporately as a church, i.e. the capacity to agitate for and to implement positive change in society, regardless of party affiliation.
Since beginning my work at Christians in Politics I have been surprised by how engaged churches are in politics and what a positive impact they are making. Here at Christians in Politics we have released our Church Election Package as well as sharing various resources for churches ranging from how to approach the election on a Sunday morning service to hosting local hustings. Since then I have received emails from churches asking for more resources or sharing their own experiences of hosting hustings and even being used as polling centres. The last email I received was from a church asking for materials to use to pray for those entering their church to vote. How amazing is that? A church in a position where they can pray for thousands of people who may know nothing of Christ as they enter a place of worship to take part in democracy.
These stories bring us joy at Christians in Politics and motivate us to continue our work. However, for us the work does not end with Christians engaging with politics individually and corporately from the outside. We want to see Christians across the country stepping up across the country, entering local and parliamentary politics to transform our country and bring about Biblically inspired and Christ-centred politics.
We in particular have a passion to support this new young generation of young people entering politics after (and in many cases) during university. With that in mind we created the Young Christians in Politics (YCIP) network, a space for young people in, or interested in, politics to support one another in their careers and to share their respective ideas about how to transform our country for Christ. If you are interested in joining our YCIP community you can sign up here http://bit.ly/YCIP-sign-up or contact myself at email@example.com.
As part of that network we are running an event on the 28th of January specifically for students interested in going into a career in politics after university. We have invited a few Christian MPs to come and share their experiences of being Christians at the highest level of politics. Also participating are various different programmes, including the UCCF Politics Network, that provide internships for university graduates working in a variety of roles in politics including being parliamentary assistants for MPs and Lords. If you are interested in the event you can find the event here https://nextstep2020.eventbrite.co.uk.