umbrellasOne place you wouldn’t expect to find a story about prayer and monastic life is the front page of the Financial Times – but all that changed last weekend.

The Archbishop of Canterbury told the British business newspaper that among the many blessings he hopes will flow from the Community of St Anselm – his new year-long programme of monastic life for young Christians – will be a cohort of future finance leaders who have a deep sense of ethical responsibility. (The FT article is available to online subscribers here, but you can also read about it on the Telegraph website here.)

The programme is open to young Christians from all backgrounds – not just those who are working in finance or hope to do so – and participants may go on to work in business, education, politics, charities or in the church. However, a “life-shaping” year of prayer, reflection and service could help St Anselm participants bring a fresh sense of ethics to whatever field they work in – including the financial services industry, the Archbishop said.

“A year of really deep reflection on self, on motivation, on the nature of theological anthropology, on service with the poor, and on commitment to the common good and what that means, is absolutely life-shaping.”

Archbishop Justin, who worked in the oil industry before entering the priesthood, is not against risk-taking in itself but wants a recognition that “risk has to be taken for the common good, not merely to increase the level of the bank’s profits”.

Last weekend the Archbishop also spoke about the Community of St Anselm in another unlikely place – a panel discussion at the International Monetary Fund in Washington about how to restore ethics in the finance industry.

Asked how the Church could help bring about culture change within corporations, the Archbishop said he hoped the Community of St Anselm could be one thing – among many others that are needed – that help to “reboot the inner value system” of the financial world.

While participants would find the year-long programme of prayer, study and service with the poor “uncomfortable, demanding, rigorous and tiring”, it would also be fun, he said. “At the heart of Christian faith is a sense of enormous joy and of recognition of one’s place and call, one’s vocation, one’s purpose, one’s value.”

In another highlight, the Archbishop said Jesus Christ gives the perfect example of how companies should set their aspirations on long-term human flourishing, rather than simply short-term financial gain.

Jesus Christ was “relatively unsuccessful in pure output terms,” he said. “He had twelve main followers, one betrayed him, eleven ran away. If you think of that in terms of a board of directors it’s not invariably successful. But in the next 300 years those followers so transformed the world that the greatest world power of the age was changed. Now that’s what we call output.”

The full discussion is worth watching, but the Archbishop’s main contribution starts at 43:30 and he talks about the Community of St Anselm at approximately 1:14.45. Watch the video here.