Ok, so I’m continuing my reflections here…
Chapter one is somewhat of an analysis of the current urban/suburban setting with 3 possible scenarios considered:
Community Lost – the basic idea is that the impact of urban environment on relationships is negative (when compared to rural community life). The causes are a more segmented life with fewer opportunities for connections,a more densely populated area causing people to withdraw into themselves to survive, the diversity of the setting heightens suspicion of people ‘not like me’, and finally the commericalised nature of the city means that most relationships are transactional. As Simon states, this is a pretty negative take on urban relationships and is probably an idealising of rural environments!
Simon quotes Claude Fischer who says that the two norms govering neighbourhood relationships are “the neighbour should be ready to help in a time of genuine emergency and secondly at all other times the neighbour should keep his or her distance”, the same kind of relationship you have with a person on a train.
Its a pretty low bar for relationships when it comes to neighbours and while I think there is some truth in Fischer’s statement, I also tend to think most people want more from a community than that. Some stumble clumsily towards it while others prefer to avoid the ‘danger’ of broken relationships by not even going there at all.
As I have observed some of our own local relationships I have seen neighbours deeply embedded in each others lives – to a point that I could not deal with, but I have also seen neighbours fight and simply stop speaking to each other. Conflict resolution around here is not brilliant – easier to just ‘move on’.
I must admit I am wary of having my neighbours so much a part of my life that they feel free to drop in at any time and stay for as long as they like. There is a part of me that warms to the thought of such connected lives, but then a part of me that also values the privacy of my home and the ability to confidently retreat.
Having seen the way some neighbours can come and never leave I have probably swayed to a safer position. In some ways this is out of kilter with what I hope to see develop and yet if I am to survive in this setting for the long term then it is just common sense.
Community Found – Simon writes of the way different groups ‘find’ each other in the bigger city – often ethnic or common interest groups and there is a genuine experience of community that goes on here.
I live in a suburb that is marketed as ‘what a community should be’ but ultimately that comes down to us to make the slogan a reality. The ‘commonality’ for our family around here is pretty much stage of life and not much else. I imagine the POMs and South Africans may connect because of common heritage, but for the Aussies its less of a draw.
These groups have been seen as a ‘survival mechanism’ for people living in the suburbs – again pretty bleak in its outlook and probably not true of my own experience. Many people survive just fine with minimal local connectivity, but they do find community in other places.
Community Liberated – This is the community that is not bound by place but is operative in various networks around the whole city. Community liberated does not mourn the loss of ‘place’ as the component of community but chooses to celebrate community in other forms.
Simon goes on to say “The neighbourhood’s role in daily life has changed. If ever it was a place of primary community, its not now… Neighbourhood communities are now optional”
For those of us who draw our missional energy from the motif of incarnation and the embodiment/expression of the gospel locally this does present challenges – because it is true.
There’s no question community is much more diverse than the local area. There’s no question that even for myself some of my best connections are well beyond my backyard, yet at the same time I feel a compelling desire to try and re-invigorate the richness of local relationships. At times this has been very frustrating because others do not share this dream or if they do, the time available for creating community is limited because of work/commuting requirements. And then there are my own limitations – wanting to get involved, but at a level that suits me.
This post was interrupted as I opened the door for the local area co-ordinator for disability services who was dropping by to pick up a young boy who was playing with Sam this morning. She tells me Brighton is an exceptional community for connectedness and people helping each other out. I find myself intrigued by her observations and wondering what other communities must be like…
So I guess the question that percolates for me from these thoughts is, to what extent ought we try to create community locally and to what extent should we just take it as it comes?
Should ‘local churches’ be focused on their own area or should we be about empowering people to be salt and light in their workplaces and other ‘liberated’ communities?
Its a tough tension because many ‘local churches’ are full of busy people, doing good things with their lives outside of the suburb the church is in. Does this matter?other boleyn girl the divx download