Friday, January 08, 2010
One of the positive angles that has been hi-lighted in news reports on the winter snow and ice, is the way in which rural communities seem to be looking after one another during the extreme weather.
Community is a subject I have blogged abut before and it is as an area I care about very much, particularly as localised community seems to be non existent in bigger towns and cities. Even in my smaller town, my neighbours rarely speak to one another..it really is quite alarming how insular and 'private' we have become.
Community deos still exst of course, but the preference today is for scattered communities drawn together by leisure or work. The problem with this approach is that the people you mix with are likely to be of a similar educational level, age group and set of interests as yourself. At first glance that may seem to be an advantage; but is it really a good thing to be so similar to those you mix with? In this restricted world of sameness, when are your ideas and preconceptions challenged? When do you benefit from the wisdom of your elders or from the freshness and enthusiasm of those younger than you if you are older yourself?
The eclecticism of the traditional village community just isn't present in most scattered community groups. Town churches are one of the few places that can still reflect a healthy wide ranging community in these places, as long as they resist the temptation to become a sort of club which appeals to a specific type of person. Then, (and this happens all too often) they become grey and uninteresting, places which exist for the benefit of those within and not those outside. They are in these situations unlikely to attract anyoone other than the type of person already represented..another interest led community like all the others. No wonder the church is said to be in decline!
Jesus commands us to go and take the gospel to others. It is therefore crucial that we as Christians become a part of our local community, wherever it is, become known, enter into the hub of local life and take an interest in the people around us who are not just like us. Maybe when they see the church as an inclusive place where people of different interests, ages and approaches to worship, exist together in a caring and supportive environment, then our churches may begin to grow.
A relational approach to evangelism is the most effective way in which people can see Christ. I am really looking forward to living in rural parish from the summer. I want to involve myself in the lives of the villages and make the effort to get to know people through my day to day contact with a real, localised community.