Community - a Gospel way of living.

By Trish Patrick in Articles

The world is in a mess; the great chasm between the 'haves and the have-nots' needs to be replaced with community interested in the common good as exemplified by the Jesus way..

COMMUNITY A Gospel way of living.
As I write this article I'm listening to news of the horrific and seemingly uncontainable inferno that was home to about one hundred and twenty lower socio-economic families in the city of London. A few days ago the terror attack on London Bridge and Borough Market dominated the news. A few days before that, it was the terror attack on Manchester. A massive amount of grief and suffering inflicted for a variety of reasons on unsuspecting and vulnerable people....and I haven't even mentioned the enormous suffering in the Middle East and other countries torn apart by war, oppression, poverty and natural disaster!
One could be forgiven for believing that the world is in a hopeless mess. World leaders, Politicians, Lobbyists, Global Corporates all jostling for power and control, self interest often taking precedence over the 'common good'. The world IS in a mess, but there is an interesting trend emerging, which, if it continues to gain momentum, could begin to transform society from being a society obsessed with Individualism and unfettered Capitalism where profit at any cost is the bottom line, to a community which IS interested in the 'common good'.
With interest, I watched the very youthful crowds attending the post terror attack concert of Ariana Grande and her supporting artistes. All advocating love, peace and unity, rather than hate, division and war. The young fans were holding up signs and banners pleading for peace, justice and love, caring communities and a 'coming together' of all citizens of all races and creeds. One could have understood if they had been angry and out for vengeance. They were not. The audience in the main were the youth of Manchester and they 'got it'. In their youthful wisdom they could see that hate and division were not the route to safer communities where all can thrive. Unfortunately, the many 'grown-ups' who hold positions of power seem hell-bent on maintaining the status quo which clearly isn't working for the majority while creating great wealth for the few. What will it take for the powerful few to realise that the great chasm between the 'haves and the have-nots', destabilises communities leading to civil unrest and eventually revolt.
A couple of weeks ago I heard an Economist from the London School of Economics declaring that the old fashioned economics of the 1970's are so 'yesterday' and old fashioned. He said there is no place for government led social welfare in 21st century. Nobody should be forced into contributing to the welfare of those who are not contributing to society. 'The idea of the 'common good' is quaint and old fashioned' he said, 'we should be aiming for small government and low taxes'. What sort of community would this economist's vision of society create? The notion that private organisations can provide compassionate welfare for the 'have-nots' of this world is a system doomed to fail. Big business in the private sector is about making greatest profit possible for the shareholders. Altruism is not the predominant reason business exists. 'Not for profit' organisations (like The Hub) struggle to provide care with ever diminishing resources as government funding is constantly being more closely targeted. Accountability requirements strain personnel resources as more and more statistical data is required. Of course accountability is an important part of the deal, but more and yet more personal information about their clients is being demanded of these organisations.
At Explorers on Sunday, Rev. Alec Clark (Vicar General of the local Diocese) reminded us of the importance of nurturing our church community and being involved in the community beyond.
Perhaps the word 'community' is in danger of becoming the latest 'buzz' word but 'Community' seems to have been at the core of the Jesus way.
It was his lived experience. He was always visiting people, having meals with them, encouraging others to do the same. It would have been a cultural thing too because people were reliant on their neighbours and fellow villagers for sharing chores and gathering food. Hospitality was a sacred aspect of Middle Eastern culture.
At its most fundamental level community is 'Always treating others as you would like them to treat you' Matt. 6: Vs 12.
The golden rule!
I think our parish is very very good at this. It is one of our biggest strengths. I suspect Jesus wouldn't be too bothered about creeds and doctrines. They were dreamed up long after Jesus walked this earth by the ancient church fathers and used as weapons of power and control, everything Jesus despised. Methodism as practiced in the Dunedin Parish is well connected to the community in many ways; MWF groups work really hard at reaching out to their local communities and the churches have perfected the art of welcoming and enveloping people of all races and faiths without overwhelming them. My brother in law who was staying with us last week, having attended church, dinner and Open Ed., (yet would call himself 'Atheist'), commented that he would really enjoy being part of our church because there was a vitality and true sense of community about it. Of course we have our issues, but I think we have to be realistic. Too often we despair about what isn't happening in our aging, dwindling congregations and feel we must apologise for it. However, we cannot magically morph into what we are not, a youthful parish bursting at the seams with young families, a feature common in the golden Christendom era of the 20th century .... So let's continue 'doing what we do do well' in the 21st century;
Finding good in everyone
Finding God in everyone.
Let's celebrate that, and continue being the 'light on the hill' following the Jesus way, By being a community of love.
Trish Patrick