Month: April 2021

Members Only?

Published / by Dean Eland

Recent discussion in the SA Uniting Church has been prompted by local reports about what is needed to make church buildings safe and secure. Some have found these reports confronting and conversations have expressed anxiety and uncertainly about the capacity of members to find the money and keep buildings open.

Wider social trends and social change has affected many locally based organisations and the church is not the only group thinking about the future and best use of resources. Those walking around the neighbourhood will notice other public buildings that are often neglected, in disrepair or closed and up for sale. While local governments provide community services and facilities, they need to balance the budget. Wealthy LGAs find it easier to provide meeting places but four or five councils in the north and western regions of metropolitan Adelaide have suburbs with high rates of disadvantage. (SEIFA).

The church has a primary theological tradition to affirm that its resources and presence is not for members only.  As a servant community, in churches of the open-door, members know that their buildings are not just there for those who turn up on Sunday morning or only for people like us! Many congregations have long term connections and stories where we have joined forces and worked with others to enhance community life and build safe and welcoming neighbourhoods.

The Bank of Ideas 2021 March-April newsletter ‘Community & Economic Development Matters’ affirms the significance of the neighbourhood and the importance of working together not ‘to’ or ‘for’ people but with them. Their feature article quotes Hubert Humphrey, “The impersonal hand of government can never replace the helping hand of a neighbour’.

“Now is the time to dispense with the dominant model of so-called modern day community development – doing things ‘for’ and ‘to’ people and replace it in practice with the focus strongly on ‘with’ and ‘of and by’ people. COVID has shown the power of this focus at the neighbourhood level. May the words of Margaret Wheatley echo strongly in professional community development circles and local communities – ‘It is time for all the heroes to go home… It is time to stop waiting for someone to save us. It is time to face the truth of our situation – that we’re all in this together, that we all have a voice – and figure out how to mobilize the hearts and minds of everyone in our communities’. “