Promoting Community Flourishing at Common Good RVA
Religion & Liberty Online

Promoting Community Flourishing at Common Good RVA

On January 18-19, over 200 Christians gathered at the Common Good RVA event in Richmond, VA, to “explore what it means to see our everyday work as a meaningful part of our Christian calling.” Barrett Clark, director of strategy and analytics for Ivy Ventures, attended the event and provided a helpful summary to On Call in Culture.

By Barrett Clark

Throughout history, the term “common good” has been used in a variety of ways, taking on various meanings, often in the service of personal or political ends.

At the recent Common Good RVA event in Richmond, VA, hosted by Christianity Today and two Richmond churches, local believers were challenged to give meaning to the phrase in their faith and daily lives. As the event sought to affirm, the Common Good is ultimately God–acting through his people, by his delegation.

The conference was an extension of Christianity Today’s This is Our City series, which covers Christian-led cultural renewal efforts in several American cities, whether it be selling mattresses or providing low-cost lighting to the developing world. With a band, beards, and a program broken up by videos and tweets, the event had all the signs of a conference geared toward 20- and 30-something creatives and young professionals.

Andy Crouch, senior editor of Christianity Today, led the event, covering some of the main points from his book, Culture Making. Pointing to the current state of American Protestant church, Crouch drew parallels with 19th-century Pope Leo XIII, who chose to lead from a position of spiritual power when the Catholic Church lost a degree of temporal power in physical territory and earthly governance. In a similar way, Crouch argued, today’s American church is losing some of its own temporal power when it comes to directly influencing government, policy, and power. Once again, we are pressed to rely more heavily on spiritual power, engaging society and culture for the Common Good at lower, closer levels of human interaction and engagement.

Crouch noted that this perspective of the Common Good builds on three primary areas:

  • Flourishing – being magnificently ourselves by doing what we were created to do
  • Vulnerability – taking care of the vulnerable while also realizing that we, too, are the vulnerable
  • Community – recognizing that the Common Good is not only pursued individually, but is carried out through small groups and communities

Amy Sherman from nearby Charlottesville and author of Kingdom Calling took the topic further, sharing detailed stories about people participating in the Common Good through their various vocations. Drawing out points from her book and life, she explained that the Common Good is a foretaste of the Kingdom, the New Jerusalem.

The event was appropriately spaced with videos by Nathan Clarke, who showed several Richmond locals using their vocations and making the mundane important and useful. Time was also allotted for dialogue about what the Common Good looks like in areas of vocation.

Common Good RVA had the right overarching theme, encouraging the local Christian community to engage its city for transcendent purposes. The simplicity of the message may have caught some young professionals off guard, as many career-oriented individuals often look for very specific and tangible ways to engage their work and community in Christ. Instead, the message from Crouch and Sherman called for us to pull out of our sometimes individualistic career paths and be “radically God centered” and “other centered.”

Barrett Clark is the director of strategy and analytics for Ivy Ventures, a hospital consulting firm focusing on business growth strategies. He is the president of his neighborhood association and sits on the advisory board of the Elijah House Academy, a K-12 school serving primarily the inner city of Richmond, VA. When he has time, he enjoys skiing, backpacking, and cycling.

For more on restoring a proper view of work and meaning, see Work: The Meaning of Your Life and Flourishing Churches and Communities.

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Joseph Sunde

Joseph Sunde's work has appeared in venues such as the Foundation for Economic Education, First Things, The Christian Post, The Stream, Intellectual Takeout, Patheos, LifeSiteNews, The City, Charisma News, The Green Room, Juicy Ecumenism, Ethika Politika, Made to Flourish, and the Center for Faith and Work, as well as on PowerBlog. He resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and four children.