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London: Faiths Unite in Day for Civil Society
Independent Catholic News

April 26, 2011
View the Original Article


On 2 May Citizens UK launches the first 'Day for Civil Society' - a mixture of faith services, rallies and an assembly celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Living Wage, on the theme: "only organised people can control organised money".

The day begins at 11am with Mass for Migrants attended by 1,000 people at St George's Cathedral, Southwark, presided by London's three archbishops, at the end of which Bishop Thomas McMahon of Brentwood will lead some 400 Catholics across the bridge to Westminster.

At the same time a 900-strong gospel service at the Emmanuel Centre will call for curbs on usury, while at the largest ever (150) Scriptural Reasoning workshop yet held Christians, Jews and Muslims compare their scriptural texts on the theme of money.

At the Assembly in the afternoon 2,500 people drawn from over 200 civil society institutions - mostly churches, but including many schools, mosques, synagogues and associations - from across London and elsewhere will gather at Methodist Central Hall in Westminster to celebrate one of the great achievements of civil society in the past decade - the living wage campaign http://www.citizensuk.org/category/living-wage-campaign/, which since its launch 10 years ago has won more than £70m for the low-paid, and lifted thousands of families out of poverty.

The Assembly will tell the story of the London Living Wage, and its origins in an east London priests' retreat before launching the new 'national living wage' campaign (announcing the rate), as well as the new Living Wage Foundation, whose partners include the accountancy firm KPMG, the law firm Linklaters, the retail outlet Lush and others. The Mayor of London, a prominent backer of the idea, has recorded a special video message, and will use the occasion to announce this year's London Living Wage rate.

Citizens UK, the national home of community organising, has organised in the past years assemblies and rallies on May Bank Holidays, beginning with a Mass at London's cathedrals, which have had a crucial impact on politics - not least on 3 May last year, when the three candidates to prime minister gave speeches at what turned out to be the most lively and significant hustings in the election campaign.

This year's Assembly will include the usual mixture of celebration, political negotiation, song, short films and powerful testimonies which have made Citizens UK assemblies a major landmark in the life both of faith and civil society. Employees and employers will testify to the effect that a living wage - or the lack of it - has had on low-paid workers and their families.

It will show the power of civil society to help shape both state and market, by telling the story of the campaign itself, which continues to take place almost weekly as ordinary citizens apply pressure on companies and institutions to pay their low-paid staff a wage that takes into account the real cost of living. The campaign will be boosted this year by a new scheme to enable ordinary people to 'activate their money' - using their bank account, for example, to pressure their bank into paying a living wage to low-paid staff.

TIMETABLE:

11am: MASS ON THE FEAST OF ST JOSEPH THE WORKER, St George's Cathedral, Southwark.

The annual Migrants' Mass will be celebrated by the Archbishops of Westminster, Southwark and Brentwood before a congregation of 1,500 including a 20-minute colourful procession of banners, a large choir and a moving reflection on the theme of prophecy by Bishop Thomas McMahon of Brentwood, who will be seated on Cardinal Manning's chair. At the end of the Mass, the bishop will lead hundreds over Southwark Bridge to the Assembly. All welcome. No ticket necessary, but be seated by 10.30am. Details here: http://www.rcdow.org.uk/massformigrants/.

1100am: NEHEMIAH 5 GOSPEL RALLY, Emmanuel Evangelical Church, Marsham St, Westminster SW1P 3DW. Some 900 evangelical Christians will rally amidst rousing gospel choruses to call for a cap on the cost of credit and to challenge the loan sharks -- the first time black churches in the UK have come together in such a cause. Three choirs will show the power of gospel music in social justice. Speakers include Pastora Sola Fola Alade (Trinity Chapel) and Bishop Louis McLeod (New Testament Church of God). All welcome. Come early to get a seat.

1130am: SCRIPTURAL REASONING: the largest interfaith gathering of its kind, the SR workshop brings together around 150 scholars, leaders and congregants from Christian, Jewish and Muslim institutions to compare their respective scriptures concerning the theme of money. Closed event but please contact for information.

2pm: 10TH ANNIVERSARY LIVING WAGE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY at Westminster Central Hall to launch National Living Wage Foundation and call for the living wage to be adopted nationally. The Assembly of 2,500 people will open with a gospel choir and finish with a major pledge to bring pressure everywhere, however local, for the national minimum wage. Ticket only.