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13 May - Covenant Stewardship and the Inclusive Commons

convened by St.James Picadilly Church

In the past, people understood religion as a process of saving their souls, faith in their Creator, trust in their fellow man, and the values they acquire through religion. But these spiritual attributes have been displaced by a new material creed. 

Now we speak of saving money, faith in the government that issues it, trust in the banks that distribute it, and the value we derive from it. Indeed, the interest rate which expresses the value of our currency is tantamount to God in this secular age. That’s because compound interest, growing at a fixed rate over long periods, seems to achieve an immortality that we can never attain in our short life-spans — the power to conquer time. 

Money literally continues to live on and grow after we die, which is the closest thing to eternal life for most people in a culture that does not believe in God.

This seminar examines the spiritual dimension of the commons. In many places across the world, people who share particular resources are managing them through unique forms of self-governance and collaboration, which attempt to protect the gifts of creation by ensuring their long-term sustainability. Whether these commons are traditional (rivers, forests, indigenous cultures) or emerging (solar energy, intellectual property, internet), communities are taking collective action to preserve their local resources, both for themselves and for future generations.

Behind the governance of these commons is an essential spiritual aspect, whether or not this is consciously recognized by those involved. When people come together to manage a resource through trust, cooperation and sharing, they link with each other subjectively. This creates physical, social, affective and cognitive interdependencies among them. It also ensures a freer flow of subtle energies across the artificial boundaries of private property and national borders, which otherwise impede or distort human intersubjectivity and create separations between people.

Hence, the new ethic of personal development, social cohesion and ecological sustainability that is rapidly spreading across the world is much more in line with the spiritual practices of the world’s major religions than the present system of debt-based economics. In many ways, the age-old vision of spirituality is being realized through our calling to become trustees of the world’s resources.

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