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ICF Chair, Revd Phil Jump writes:

When ICF was formed in 1921, it created a fusion that stretched across the socio-economic spectrum, challenging the class divisions of its day. The Navvy Mission, one of its founding partners, was the recognised advocate for one of the most disadvantaged and exploited workforces of its day. It’s combination with the Christian Social Union brought it together with some of society’s leading academics and institutions. Such a bold combination might never have worked had it not been championed, it its formative years, by an individual who seemed equally capable of engaging that breadth. Geoffrey Studdert-Kennedy, or Woodbine Willie as he was more popularly known, was both Chaplain to the King, but also a celebrated military Chaplain in the trenches of WW1. Many consider him to be the architect of our modern expressions of chaplaincy, refusing the role of a motivational speaker at the muster stations, insisting instead on being at the front-line alongside the wounded, terrified and dying.

ICF remains committed to that breadth of influence, and while we have been delighted to include peers, politicians and senior industrialists among our ranks, we welcome our emerging partnership with Community-TU, as a vital expression of our ongoing commitment to engage with the everyday experience of working people.

ICF's involvement with Community, not surprisingly perhaps, has come through the door of the Faith Workers' branch, and we are certainly delighted to participate in this aspect of its life. We might expect that those who are employed in the Faith institutions would immediately recognise the value of our work, and of course many of our trustees are themselves involved in this sphere. While the Faith Workers’ branch is our natural home, my hope is that this will prove to be a doorway rather than a destination.

There are many within today's workforce, and I suspect within the membership of Community-TU, who would either describe themselves as people of faith, or who would seek to embrace the ethical and spiritual values of faith communities within their working lives. Although ICF's legacy is as a 'Christian' fellowship, this is an identity that was forged in a social context where Christianity and Faith were pretty much synonymous. We very much work today with people of all faiths and none, seeking the Common Good, and doing what we can to create an environment where work and faith are seen as informative of one another if we are to create a world of well-being and human flourishing. Work can never be an alternative to that, but rather a key contributor. When it undermines or thwarts that aim, work has been allowed to become something it should never have!

We hope that our specific faith perspective might inform the mission and vision of Community, and that we might also offer ourselves as a place where people of faith can find support and encouragement as they work out its implications in their working lives. The Christian writer, St Benedict, described work as participation in God’s work of sustaining creation. While not everyone may use such overtly religious language, this nonetheless offers an enduring challenge in a world that constantly seeks to reduce it to a solely economic entity.

We do not claim a monopoly on such thinking, and in fact might argue that at their best, Trades Unions are a practical embodiment of that same principle. But this faith foundation serves to constantly earth our thinking in that belief, and as such we hope we can become a useful friend and advocate for all who are seeking justice and well-being in the workplace. When Trades Unions seek to challenge workplace contexts that do not embrace these values, they are not promoting the interests of one group and the expense of another, they are revealing a fundamental flaw in our understanding of what work is truly intended to be. My hope is that ICF can add strength and clarity to that argument in circumstances where it is needed. We look forward to a fruitful and mutually beneficial partnership.