Yesterday we celebrated the 244th birthday of the Wesleyan Chapel on City Rd . For those who know the City , it’s beside Morningstar and opposite Bunyan Fields – a few hundred yards north of Moorgate.
The Church was built because of the demand to listen to John Wesley who had previously preached either at the nearby Foundry ( an industrial site that was too small) or in the open space called Moorfields. Nearly a quarter of a millennium later there were 500 people in the church listening to a preacher predicting the Chapel would be serving Londoners in 2264.
The Chapel provides a space for collective endeavor, not just worship but a host of enterprises that help those who are struggling with loneliness and poverty spend time with those who aren’t. The Chapel is a warm room this winter for those who have no heating. Many council flats where rent includes heating will not be heated during the day.
So how, in 1778 did the Chapel come into being? The answer is because there were people prepared to put down the money, design it and make sure it got built. Because they saw it had a social ,moral and spiritual purpose. It was built to last and it has lasted. It is a monument to faith in the future of a good idea – Methodism.
A Collective Endeavor
I spent Sunday morning writing about pensions and responding to tweets on blogs I had written on Saturday. I was a little deflated as I walked to the service across the City of London, it was wet, I have a cold…
And then the service, a full church celebrating its anniversary and the life of a young Ghanaian lady who had suddenly died , shortly after getting married, a year ago. It was a great collection of endeavor not to allow life to get us down but to build on what has been done and make for a good future. Many of the congregation’s ancestors 250 years ago would have been living in fear of enslavement. We have seen much good since then
How different, I thought, from the discussions I had left.
The discussions had focussed on how CDC as a means of turning pension pots to pensions, could be strangled at birth. The message was clear, people were on their own at retirement and must be left to make their own way. either handing their money to an insurer to be paid what the market paid , or drawing down cash from the pot according to each individual’s best endeavors. Every man for himself.
This approach makes no sense to me. I know that it is through collectives, through schools, churches , companies and through collective pensions that we get things done together.
No man is an island, said the Dean of St Pauls, John Donne. The point of a collective pension is to pool the savings of many people so that everyone gets a wage for life which is stabilised through the discretionary management of experts who smooth the income paid over time and make sure that those who enter the arrangement replace those who leave it.
In Church terms, Christenings match Funerals, new members join the church as older members die. There is no thought that this will be “wound up” , that there is intergenerational unfairness, no thought that the leaders of the church are acting against the common good.
This is because the outlook of the Church is deliberately positive. The Christian Church is founded on the principal of love, which in practical terms mean to treat your neighbour as yourself. And the strength of the Church is that it has resisted all attempts to dismantle it over two millennia. It has had bad times and has had several reformations, it is not a perfect institution but it finds new ways to be relevant. CDC is not a new religion, it is just the old religion reverting to its core principles – much as Methodism returned to the core principles of Protestantism and Protestantism reformed the excesses of the late medieval Catholic church.
How we treat our elderly population, how we allow them to finance their later years, is a great social endeavor that demands a collective not individualistic approach. Individuals are free to go their own way and there will be many who will choose to annuitize or run their own drawdown. But like the masses of Moorfield, the masses of those reaching the point where they want to stop working need somewhere big enough , dry enough and warm enough! CDC could be that place, we just need some social entrepreneurs and some organisations with capital to make it work.
If you go into Wesley’s chapel, you may be surprised to see that many of its founding benefactors are commemorated on its walls with plinths and statues and inscriptions.
Their memory is with us to this day. If you want a lasting legacy , why don’t you join the growing number of people with goodwill, keen to make a collective approach to pensions work, for those in later life?
Like Methodism , CDC is a good idea!