In this edition of Frontlines, Gavin Matthews spoke to William Rugg, in the City of London where the financial sector provides some unique opportunities for Christian witness.
Solas: Hi William, how are you?
WR: Great, thankyou.
Solas: Before we explore what it means to be a Christian in your workplace, tell us a little about your job? What are your roles and responsibilities?
WR: I work for Rathbones, which is a wealth management company where I write and edit content for our clients and for the general public as part of our marketing strategy. So I am a writer and editor, working in the financial world. So I am not a typical ‘city worker’ but I work in the communications side of the business.
Solas: What’s the best part of your job? What gives you job satisfaction?
WR: One of the best things is to see the tangible results of my work at the end of the day. Sometimes it might be the production of a nice glossy report that I’ve helped to write, edit or produce. It’s great to see that being completed and then people reading it and responding to it. A lot of people don’t have that tangible-aspect to their work – so that is something I value. I really enjoy writing being at my desk, and getting my head down to work!
Solas: How much of what you do is on line and how much in print?
WR: Well, since lockdown it has all been digital. But I used to produce a couple of long-form printed reports in magazine-style per year. Maybe we will go back to that, it remains to be seen what the ‘new normal’ will be like.
Solas: What kind of challenges does your field of work present – and does your Christian faith help you to navigate those?
WR: Just as in any workplace, it’s human interaction that brings about many of the challenges. Relationships can sometimes be difficult and I think that working in the City, perhaps especially in asset management, there are some forceful personalities around. That’s probably true of a lot of workplaces, but is perhaps particularly so in the City. So, the challenge is to navigate those relationships and – as a Christian – to be “salt and light” and to be distinct in the way that I treat people. As I mentioned, I like to get my head down and get on with my work, but the challenge for me, as a Christian is to be there, every day, as an ambassador for Christ. In seeking to make him known, relationships must be built and invested in because that’s where the opportunities come up. The fact that in this environment some of the people are a bit more forthright can actually be a good thing, because that presents opportunities to talk about my faith.
Solas: And does your faith also affect the way that you go about doing the work itself?
WR: One of the biggest things for me is the attitude I take to work. My job is to serve my boss, the company and our clients, and those people in my team who I line-manage. Jesus himself said, “I came not to be served but to serve”, so he inspires me to see serving others as a very important thing. So I try to bring a servant-hearted attitude to my work. Beyond that I seek to glorify God in my work. That means that there is this amazing purpose to my work, because I want to honour Him in what I do. Ultimately, even though I am serving a company and clients – I am working for God and that work opens doors for my witness about Him to others. I want people to see that I am motivated by something which is beyond this visible world, that’s what I ultimately want people to notice and to know more about.
Solas: I’m aware that the folks you work with know that you are a Christian. What have reactions to your faith been like?
WR: Well, I haven’t had any direct “push-back” to my faith in my current role. In my previous job in a different firm, I had a colleague who was a professed atheist and was very strong in his views and used to love to debate things. I really enjoyed those conversations even though I never persuaded him to change his mind! Generally while there is some underlying hostility to what Christians believe, that constant veneer of British politeness means that you often don’t really know where people stand. When I have put my head above the parapet and sent out invitations to the whole company to events where we are seeking to share the gospel, I’ve had people come up to me and say things like, “I’m not interested personally, but well done for standing up for being a Christian.” There have been many positive reactions from people who recognize that it took some courage. Other people have been encouraged by it too. A couple of folks have said to me, “I am so grateful for you doing this, I am a Christian but I have never stood up and made myself known as a Christian at work – and you’ve really encouraged me to do that.” So they’ve joined our prayer and Bible-study group too now. So there have been some very positive responses from Christians and non-Christians to my faith.
Solas: Did you have to get permission to run events in the office like Christianity Explored? Or to email everyone in the office to invite them? How does that work?
WR: We’re really blessed at Rathbones because the attitude of the human resources department is that if you want to put on an event for colleagues you can as long as it is something that everyone feels welcome to – regardless of what their faith is. Of course that is absolutely the very thing that we want to do, to make everyone feel welcome and not make the Christian event exclusive or only open to Christians. So we are delighted to hold events on the basis that they are for everyone.
That’s very different from previous places where I have worked which have been at the opposite end of the spectrum. In the asset management company I used to work for, the policy was that there could be no religious activity in the building of any kind. We couldn’t even use a conference room at lunch time for a prayer meeting. So I wrote an email to the CEO and said to him that there are a group of Christians in the company who would like to hold a carol service to invite colleagues along to – and I invited him to do one of the readings! When he said, “yes – great idea” then we had some backing, and so we used a church close to the office and were able to invite people from work along.
Solas: And is Rathbones a large company?
WR: There’s about a thousand people who work here, across the UK, of whom around five-hundred are in the London office where I’m based.
Solas: And your workplace Christian group..?
WR: There’s about half a dozen of us, and the Mark study group has recently doubled from four to eight people.
Solas; And you were able to run a Christianity Explored course there?
WR: Yes, that’s right. It was actually after lockdown had started so we had to do that one online. But the wonderful thing about that was that a lot of the people who came to that were from the regional offices – whereas previously we’d really only focussed on the London office. Lockdown has made us expand our horizons and think beyond just the local office.
Solas: and you also mentioned dialogue-style events. How did they work?
WR: Well the most recent one took place at Easter. Lots of London churches and their lunchtime ministries work together on a mission called “Questions for Life” every Easter. They sent out a list of speakers who were available to support groups like ours. So we had a speaker come in and we had tea and scones sent out to colleagues in their homes and called the event “Tea with Jesus!” and the talk was about Jesus being the bread of life. Then there was a chance for dialogue, discussion and Q&A. It was really informal and it was from that some more people joined our Mark study group.
Solas: What reactions have there been at work to your Christian group in the office, praying, reading the Bible, and inviting them to events? Have any objections been raised?
WR: There were no objections raised that I am aware of. I know of some Christians who have been approached by other colleagues who are very hostile to Christianity who have been given a hard time; but I haven’t myself. I sent out the email to the whole company to our latest event, and that’s around 1,000 people – but there is a lot of apathy about. I got something between ten or twenty responses to that email and they were all positive. People came along and there was good follow up from it too. Christianity Explored was especially good for that – people had loads of really good questions.
Solas: You are clearly very active in sharing your faith, and not being a hidden Christian. Tell me what motivates you to share your faith with others like this?
WR: Let me preface my answer by saying that doing so takes me right outside my comfort zone! But when I think about the fact that my deepest need is for forgiveness of my sins – and the way that Jesus met that need at immense personal cost to himself; then evangelism flows out of a sense of love for Jesus and everything he’s done for me. I also believe that the forgiveness of sins is my friends and colleagues deepest need too. Without Christ, my colleagues are lost – and I want to be like Jesus in his love for the los. It’s all too easy to lose that perspective and just get on with the work, but everyone’s deepest need is for the forgiveness of their sins (whether they realise that or not). That’s what Jesus offers – and they are not going to know that unless someone shares it with them.
Solas: What advice would you give to a young Christian entering this field of work who wants to stay faithful to Christ there?
WR: Well the first thing is to take the earliest opportunity to make yourself known as a Christian – don’t hide it! Then pray – obviously! One really good piece of advice I was given by my pastor as I started in the workplace was to pray that God would put another Christian in my path. From there you can pray together, for others, and for your witness. That happened, I met another Christian at work, we started praying together and it grew until we were putting on event and carol services and things. Ask God to send you another Christian and to give you boldness in conversation!
Solas: Thankyou so much – there is so much in there to encourage and inspire!
WR: Thanks Gavin!