15 June – Sylvia Roberts, St Peter’s Church

“To seek the common good.”

When I moved to Petersfield I became aware that Good People live here. And the most marked thing about the good people I met was that they were quiet, humble and self-effacing about the good that they did. I found that almost everyone I met was involved in voluntary work of some kind – giving their time freely to support worthwhile organizations. Further to that, though, I uncovered more hidden treasures. These people told the truth; they were hospitable; they were thoughtful about their personal finances both in their household budgets and in their willingness to give to others; they smiled readily and laughed a lot and they were able and willing to apologise and try to make amends when they were wrong.

Had I come to Utopia? Hardly! Human nature with all its facets of good, bad and indifferent is alive and well here but I would stoutly contend that the good outweighs the bad. In my early years as a priest in the Church of England the Alternative Service Book was still in use and among the biddings for the intercessions one particular phrase has lodged forever in my mind – “direct this and every nation in the ways of justice and of peace that all may honour one another and seek the common good.” I think it is that emphasis on “seeking the common good” that I believe I find in Petersfield… and, I’m convinced… in thousands of towns up and down the UK.

During the Platinum Jubilee weekend I saw so much evidence of community joy. I saw street parties, town centre celebrations and many civic jamborees. People were spending time with their neighbours and looking out for the lonely and vulnerable. I’m old enough to remember celebrations on VE Day, Coronation Day, World Cup day, at the Olympic games and the Silver, Gold and Diamond Jubilees for our Queen so we know the goodwill is there despite pandemics and economic recessions.

Seeking the common good is not a utopian ideal to be imposed by one ‘enlightened’ group on another but rather something we create together and in doing so we transform our neighbourhoods and the lives of every person within them. The common good, properly understood, has the potential to make our communities, workplaces and institutions places where everybody is affirmed. HOORAY if the Jubilee Spirit can leave a legacy of this.