Friday, 27 November 2009

what would you miss?

It's strange, having been writing this blog now for over a year, to see what makes you comment. There are some subjects that I tackle that I think are bound to arouse comment from you, dear readers, but then there's nothing; not a squeak; silence! Other times, I think that what I've written might be fairly ordinary and bland and, lo and behold, you are roused to take to the computer keyboard. What will today be like?

A few weeks ago I went to Perth to meet a consultant (no, nothing medical). He is a business consultant who has been employed by the Church's Mission and Discipleship Council to do a stringent review of their work. I was identified as a 'non-user', someone who had never used the services of the regional development team, or any of their material. They wanted to know why!

The consultant had a whole list of questions to ask; there were two of us in the room with him and we tried to answer his questions as well as we could. His last question sticks in my mind: 'If the Mission and Discipleship Council disappeared tomorrow, would you notice?' Sadly for them, the answer we both gave was a resounding 'No!'

That set me thinking: in Church, what would you miss if it wasn't there?
  • the building? we're very attached to our church buildings; this is the place where we meet God, where we've worshipped for generations, our parents and grandparents before us; we can't worship God without a building, surely!
  • the minister? we know he's not perfect; his sermons are far too long; we sometimes don't understand what he's on about; why does he have to initiate so many changes? But we can't do without him or someone like him.
  • the organ? the organist? what an instrument! It gives a great sound, especially when so well played! How can we sing properly without an organ; it's been there for generations.
  • the hymnbook? Singing has to be done to the book, surely! How can we worship without a hymnbook; it just won't work!
  • Something else?

What would you miss? Use your imagination; what, if it disappeared tomorrow, would you really miss about Church life?

Friday, 13 November 2009

Community rules OK!

This week coming up sees the first meeting of the new Juniper Green Community Council, some 302 years to the day after the first record of Juniper Green in the records of Colinton Kirk Session. The new council will deal with the communities of Juniper Green and Baberton Mains and will provide a forum for issues affecting our communities to be aired and dealt with. Enough people volunteered their time and energy to make the Council viable, though not enough to make an election necessary. The Council needs the support of all who live in the area; its greatest challenge might be to inspire people to be interested and involved.

I had a conversation yesterday with a couple who live in another part of the city, nearer the centre, in one of these new developments full of flats. They have friends who live here and often come out to walk on the Water of Leith walkway. Their impression of Juniper Green is of a place that has a sense of community, much more so than the place where they stay. They are impressed by that.

Our parish includes two communities, the village of Juniper Green and the housing estate of Baberton Mains; these are two very different kinds of community; as Church for these communities, we need to understand each of them, respect each and work hard to be church for each of them.

By no means the only measure of a community, but one of the most obvious differences between Juniper Green and Baberton Mains, is meeting places. Juniper Green is full of meeting places: people meet in the shops, the hairdressers, even the pubs and in these meeting places relationships are formed or nurtured and fostered. The Church and the village hall would fall into these categories as well, as meeting places for people to talk and interact. Community needs meeting places!

By contrast, Baberton Mains has no meeting places; well, perhaps not strictly true, since the school probably bridges the two communities and has one foot in Baberton Mains. That apart, there are no shops, no pubs, no meeting places of any kind for chance, casual encounters. Two weeks ago, I had someone to visit at the bottom of the estate and walked down; it was mid-morning and in a 12-minute walk I met 4 people, 2 of whom were postmen! Most people had gone to work, perhaps or the shops; there are not many casual encounters. This is not the fault of the people who live in Baberton Mains; blame the people who planned and built the estate.

However, if community is important for people, how do we create these meeting places? How do we create them within the Church, for the benefit of the people of the Church? How do we tap into them in our community? How do we help create them when none exist?