“You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins. Rebuild and renovate. Make community liveable again” Isiah 58:12 (The Message version)
What do we want our communities to see when they see church? Do they see us as we see ourselves or do they believe the often shared view of the media that the church is an outdated institution that is slowly dying away and is irrelevant to 21st Century living?
Is the local church the hope in our communities or is it invisible?
A friend of mine recently explained what had motivated her to gather a group of people to renovate a disused churchyard and to create a beautiful green space, which can be used by the community.
She had a chance encounter with a man who was passing by as she emerged from the church gate onto the main road. The man exchanged a friendly greeting with her and then remarked on how surprised he was to see someone coming from there as he thought the church was closed. On further enquiry, she discovered that he had based his assumption purely on the state of the churchyard/burial ground. My friend explained that the church was actually a very lively church with a congregation of about 250 people, many of whom were involved in a variety of community activities. She went on to say that behind the main church building and therefore not visible from the road was a brand new centre, which had been built by generous donations from church members for the purpose of showing God’s love to the community and serving them. The man was surprised but interested and agreed to visit and to see for himself.
That single encounter led my friend to the conclusion that we all make assumptions about how effective and relevant things are by their outward appearance and that set her to work on her mission.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were to become known as the people who can “rebuild and renovate, make community liveable again”?
I’m not just talking about our churchyards (as important and valuable as they are) but about us being a body of people who are known as the ‘go to place’ to be in community. Where the lonely and isolated can be in relationship with others, where the poor and hungry are fed and where people can find a purpose and reason in their lives. A community where each and every one is valued and feels valuable.
I have just read a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and Carnegie Trust, “The Place of Kindness. Combatting loneliness and building stronger communities”
It is a fascinating read about the things that can make a difference and how kindness is something, which we are all capable of giving and which we all love to receive. It describes how our society appears to have forgotten how to be kind, has become fearful of being kind and is regulated to such an extent that we are no longer utilising a basic human instinct to be kind, to be in relationship and to love the stranger.
The report is a secular one and whilst reading it I found my heart screaming out the need for God’s people to become more visible, to lead the way, take the risks and to “make community liveable again”.
It appears that although many secular organisations are no doubt delivering 'kindness' and are making a difference, the impact of the local church is either negligible or invisible in many places.
Let's work together to make our churches more visible, more relevant, more connected to the communities in which they are living.
Transforming Lives Together exists in order to create a movement, tackling poverty and promoting social justice across the area covered by the Diocese of Chester. We are committed to enabling churches to engage with their communities, showing God’s love to everyone.