over the last couple of weeks, more and more opportunities for community ministry have come my way – chance encounters with local authority figures and local agencies, more formalised “community networking events” opening up huge possibilities for the church, and also affirming what the church is already doing in this place.
Some of this has been fantastic- opportunities to be innovative and think beyond individual remits, to look at how we can collaborate in care & service with those who live in this community. Some of it unfortunately has been the more bland “this is what we do and nothing is going to change that”. unfortunately for the conservative thinkers and the organisational dinosaurs – their budgets will change it, whether they like it or not.
The truth is, stuff needs to change. local government agencies need to work across boundaries and remits in order to develop a more realistic, financially viable and whole-person centred service. And the church needs to be involved in that, to value what is, and to help form what can be, rather than providing “Christian” versions of stuff that works. to surround the good with thankfull and hopeful prayer, and to aid in the changes to the stuff that doesn’t.
I despise the “Big Society” agenda pushers and hobby-horsers, finding much of the political language of it distatestful and occasionally downright dishonest. But language of co-operation, collaboration, of seeking to work with and talk with people (rather than “at” or “for”) seems a good thing, regardless of financial climate and budget cuts. One of the biggest hurdles will be getting past the institutional barriers of information sharing, whilst still maintaining privacy and dignity of the individual – but that is starting and it is good!