Archbishop tackles Big Society at shul

By Simon Rocker, December 2, 2010
Dr Rowan Williams

Dr Rowan Williams

Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams proved a top draw when delivering his first address at a synagogue since taking office.

Hampstead Synagogue's hall was packed to hear the Archbishop deliver the annual Sir Isaiah Berlin lecture, inaugurated in memory of the Oxford philosopher who died in 1997.

Guests at the lecture - "Faith and Enlightment; Friend or Foe?" - included former Conservative leader Michael Howard, who asked Dr Williams for his view of the Tories' Big Society idea.

He re-sponded that he took seriously "what a number of my friends across the river from Lambeth Palace have said. The Big Society ideal is independent in its origins from a money saving exercise and it is unfortunate that it has come at a time when it is easy to be cynical about that. I don't think we should be, but that's one of the difficulties.

"However, in basic terms, yes I think it is an opportunity for people who have a strong commitment to that vision of mutuality and mutual empowerment to get out into the public sphere and have those arguments more robustly and intelligently than we might have had 10 years ago."

Giving the vote of thanks, Henry Grunwald presented Dr Williams with four books, expressing the hope that there would be at least one he had not read before.

Last updated: 1:29pm, December 2 2010