Listening in to the ABCs election commentary and follow up radio callers one phrase caught my attention, “it was a community-based election”. Normally correspondents attribute voting trends to the way party leaders perform and what their platforms promise! Whether its about car parking or grants for sport clubs!
The decision of several candidates in SA to defect and stand as independents was in part a response to the support they received from residents when they walked the streets, when they were listening to what locals were saying and were accessible and responsive to local issues. Not so much then about major state-wide issues but about the time spent paying attention, responding and being visible in the community.
In his book, Excerpted from Palaces for the People Eric Klinenberg begins with a question, “How can we bring people together?”
He makes a case out for the way meeting places are important for developing and strengthening community life. “Too often we take for granted and neglect our libraries, parks, markets, schools, playgrounds, gardens and communal spaces, but decades of research now shows that these places can have an extraordinary effect on personal and collective well-being. Why? Because wherever we gather informally, strike up a conversation and get to know one another, relationships blossom and communities emerge-and where communities are strong, people are safer and healthier, crime drops and commerce thrives, and peace tolerance and stability take root.”
This is an important insight for churches and the way they relate to their local context. If places have an “extraordinary effect on personal and collective well-being” then community based open door congregations will be gathering places seven days a week. Not all about what happens on Sunday and not about “us and them” or “what we can do for you” but what is it we can do together.