Month: April 2023

Go Beyond the Sanctuary.

Published / by Dean Eland

Now that many congregations can celebrate an uptick in the numbers of people returning to in-person worship, it is tempting to rely on some of the same metrics that guided us before the COVID-19 pandemic — like the number of bodies in the pews — as a measure of church health. The return to in-person worship is truly a sign of hope, but even before the pandemic, the number of people in the building was not the church health bellwether we thought it was. How easily we forget.

The post-resurrection narratives in the gospels clearly point us to ministry beyond the sanctuary. Perhaps Eastertide is a good time to call the church to recommit itself to its mission in the world. A congregation that seeks to revitalize and reengage its members should not make the mistake of turning inward. If we want to compel people to reengage and get involved, we need to invite the church to respond innovatively and courageously to the community’s needs.

After the resurrection, Jesus commissions the disciples to go somewhere or do something. In Matthew, he tells the disciples to “go therefore and make disciples.” In the longer ending of Mark, he tells the disciples to “go into all the world.” In John, Jesus tells Peter, “Feed my sheep.” Jesus had no plans for the disciples to hide from the world. He sent the disciples out into the cities.

What do you know about the needs of your city? Is there an affordable housing shortage? Do lower-income families have access to high-quality summer camps and childcare? Do senior adults have meaningful activities to occupy their time during the day? What issues pose the greatest challenges for immigrants in your area? When church leaders become experts on the issues in their local community, they can provide visionary leadership for how the church continues its mission beyond the sanctuary. We might be surprised who shows up.

Alban at Duke Divinity School APRIL 17, 2023

Neighbours Every Day

Published / by Dean Eland

Guest blog by Neighbours Every Day Ambassador Hugh Mackay AO

Every community has its differences of opinion, its social divisions, and its cultural tensions, which is simply to say that every community is both diverse and, inescapably, human. If you want to master the art of belonging, you’ll need to accept the imperfections and deal with them. And the best way of dealing with them is to overlook them. There’s a lot of tolerance – a lot of forgiveness – in the art of belonging.

Finding your community is about developing your capacity to make sacrifices for the common good, not about permanent exposure to the stimulation of the exotic. The secret to the art of belonging is no secret at all: it is to accept that belonging is not dependent on finding some Utopian setting. There is no wondrous community waiting somewhere for you to arrive so you can be embraced by the natives and imbued with the great Spirit of Belonging.

Although we often feel ourselves to be independent, we know that in practice, we are all interdependent; we utterly rely on families, neighbourhoods, schools, faith communities, workplaces, assorted clubs and associations and other groups sustain and nurture us and to give us the all-important sense of belonging that helps define who we are and how we fit into society.

And we rely on others to help us out of trouble – who wouldn’t call on their neighbours in an emergency or seek legal or medical advice when they are confronted by problems they can’t solve on their own? There is nothing like a health crisis to remind us of how dependent we are on others.

So, why bother to master the art of belonging? There are three reasons, at least.

The experience of belonging to a community enhances your feelings of physical safety and emotional security and enriches your sense of identity.

You will benefit from the mental stimulation of unplanned social encounters and interactions that are characteristic of life in a community. (Indeed, as you grow older, frequent social interaction is the best way of keeping dementia at bay – more effective than that daily crossword!

The ‘state of the nation’ starts in your own street, and your own workplace: the way we interact with the communities we belong to ultimately determines the type of society we become.

It’s not where you live. It’s how you live.

Together we create belonging.

Neighbours Every Day Ambassador Hugh Mackay AO is one of Australia’s best known social researchers and the author of twenty-three books – fourteen in the fields of social psychology and ethics, and nine novels. Hugh’s book, ‘The Art of Belonging’, explores the reasons why some communities thrive, and others break down, and explains how community engagement enriches us all. In this blog Hugh talks about the importance of being socially connected to others. His recent book ‘The Kindness Revolution’ looks at how we can restore hope, rebuild trust, and inspire optimism.

Mar 8, 2023, Relationships Australia.