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Book Review: For Good

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Book Review: For Good

by Mark Glasson | CEO Anglicare WA

The state is good at addressing deficits … It is not good at cultivating assets, securing relationship, creativity, partnership, compassion and joy. The churches, by contrast, are not well–equipped to attack the giants of need, but much better placed to nurture the goods of a fully human life.’

For Good: The Church and the Future of Welfare
Samuel Wells with Russell Rook and David Barclay, Canterbury Press, 2017

This little book has had a large impact on my thinking of late.

When I first heard of For Good, it immediately piqued my interest. At the time, the Board and senior staff at Anglicare WA were looking at how we could expand our community impact and reach within the 2019-2022 Strategic Plan.

We aspired to set Anglicare WA in a direction that would turn the curve on escalating disadvantage and harm, on rising homelessness, on mental ill-health, on family violence. On all those things which seem insurmountable. We sought to refresh our thinking and find strong partners to join us in our work, in both the community and corporate world.

For Good started me thinking how a strengthened relationship with the Anglican community could help to achieve this end.

The gist of Wells’ proposition is as follows:

  • The State is best placed to address social deficits. At the dawn of the British Welfare State, these were defined as the five giant evils: want, idleness, ignorance, disease, and squalor. Whilst, our language today is different, the principle is essentially the same.
  • The most appropriate part churches can play in addressing poverty and disadvantage is not so much to tackle deficits but to cultivate assets.
  • Five titanic Goods (in contrast to the evils) are identified: flourishing, fulfilment, inspiration, blessing, and hope.
  • The Christian ethos is well placed to consider these social Goods; agencies that are faith inspired can also claim this ground.

Wells suggests by chasing government contracts, churches and agencies such as Anglicare WA have lost some of the focus on strength building. He suggests evaluating our efforts in cultivating these Goods by measuring them against the following criteria:

  1. Relationship
  2. Creativity
  3. Partnership
  4. Compassion and, most importantly
  5. Joy

In July, Anglicare WA launched our new Strategic Plan. On close inspection, you will see the influence of For Good. While maintaining a steadfast commitment to delivering quality community services, we have also committed to strengthen the community to challenge barriers to thriving.

We have a renewed focus on prevention and early intervention, on community education, and on advocacy.

We have committed to building stronger partnerships with Anglican schools and parishes. Some of this work has commenced, with the creation of the Anglicare WA Church Community Fund, an information booklet to support parishes to respond to homelessness and, we will soon employ a community educator to engage with schools and congregations to support their communities.

As one among many organisations in the Anglican community dedicated to reaching out in loving service, we believe we are mirroring Christ’s agenda. Beautifully summarised in these words from John’s Gospel: ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly’ (John 10:10b).

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