Archbishop Justin welcomes local CCJ branches to Lambeth Palace
Thursday 8th May 2014The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby welcomed local members of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ) to Lambeth Palace last night, at a gathering hosted on behalf of the CCJ presidents to thank local branches for their work.
A transcript of Archbishop Justin's remarks follows:
"Thank you very much, Bishop Nigel. One of the great treats of this job is this sort of gathering, so welcome very warmly to Lambeth Palace this evening; it’s a delight to have you here with us. The point of this gathering, which came out of the last meeting of CCJ council, was to recognise the importance of the local dialogue that takes place through the CCJ branches, and it’s really to say thank you, and that what you do in local branches is the real grind and hard work that changes attitudes. People with grand titles can do all kinds of grand speeches, but the difference is made by face-to-face meeting. It’s at the branches that you that, and you really make a difference to the tone and to the nature of relationships. So thank you very, very much indeed, and I’m sure I’m not the last who’ll be saying that this evening
"I was walking past a portrait of William Temple a few moments ago, and of course he was very heavily involved in the early stages of CCJ. He was Archbishop of Canterbury at probably the greatest time of suffering for the Jewish people, possibly in their history, but certainly in the modern era. And yet, today, as has always been the case, there remains the need for good and effective dialogue, because we are going through – as always – times of difficulty, when there are many who want to make sure that Christian-Jewish relationships are strained. And it is through your work in the branches that very often we can avoid that being the lived-out reality in the locality.
"We have the sadness of what looks like the failure, at the moment at least, of a political breakthrough towards peace in Israel/Palestine. And there are two needs, I think, within CCJ, about the issues around that. We must not ignore them. We can’t not talk about them, because they are a reality that is on our television screens, in our newspapers and in the political world. And they are used as excuses or realities on the ground to change the tone of discussion. And there is a great sadness there; there are different views, and we cannot deal with those by simply shouting at each other.
"But they can’t be all we talk about, because actually community relations in this country depend very much on the right living out of the way we interact with each other. At the heart of much of our thinking as Christians, and with the Chief Rabbi here I’m going to be very careful what I say, but I think it is part of what we inherited from Judaism is the sense that we are never in existence when we’re in existence in isolation. That applies to communities as it does to individuals, and therefore our interaction is absolutely crucial – and you make that happen.
"Keeping up the energy and momentum of dialogue and joint-working at branch level is not easy. It is very, very hard work. It’s a long grind. It involves going out to cold meetings on a wet Wednesday in February and all the other things that one doesn’t want to do. So we really want to honour those who have made these unique contributions to CCJ.
"It’s been important that we are not just talking together, but through especially our Near Neighbours programme and other ways – such as through Mitzvah Day – are working together for the common good of our communities.
"What can we do, in these times of difficulty and struggle in many areas, that makes a difference to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society? It is encouraging that Near Neighbours has received another two years of funding, and that the programme is being rolled in out areas where there is the possibility of much greater Jewish participation. I hope you’ll keep an eye out for that.
"So I just want to say thank you so much for coming a long distance. I feel privileged to be in the room with those who do so much hard work at the local level. And thank you for both your reality and your determination.
Council for Christians and Jews meets at Lambeth Palace (21 Jan 2014)
As Archbishop of Canterbury, I'm a Mitzvah Day fan (Jewish Chronicle, 15 Nov 2013)