Wednesday, 27 October 2010

How do you define a good community?

I was talking on Sunday about our community and how it feels. I was wondering out loud about how to encapsulate what made it so welcoming and inspiring. This reminded me of when I did an evaluation of a regeneration scheme which was very successful - everyone said that the one factor above all that made it good was Eric the programme manager who had led the project from day one. Given that there was only one Eric I needed to talk to people about what it was about Eric that made him such an effective leader if we were to find similar staff to run schemes. When I had finished I was not certain that I had the essence of Eric - but I was getting close.

And so it is when we try to encapsulate the best of our communities - there are things which we can explain - how people are welcoming and then describing what welcoming actually means: how people are generous - with their time, their money, their resources and their smiles; how people approach difficulties - being committed to resolving conflict without feeling hard-done to at the end of the resolution; being mindful of the needs of others; being committed to making changes if things aren't working well; and I guess some other characteristics. Whilst we can describe all of this, it is how to make it real that is the hard bit.

I feel that there is a spiritual imperative to invest time and energy into my chosen faith community. The choice that I/we make is whether to commit or not to commit - if we decide to commit then we should be prepared to do what it takes.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

What is a community?

I have been away for two weeks with my sister who lives in Australia - we did not grow up together as our connection is through my father who lived with his second family many miles away leaving the UK for good when my sister was 14. We have re-established our family link over the last ten years. I have been to Australia several times and on two occasions stayed with her and this is the second time that she has visited me. This time we had a 12-day tour around the country - almost 24-hours a day with each other and it was all very easy. The biology of our shared genes shows up when we think the same thoughts and like the same food - and our differences reflect our uniqueness, our different genes and our different experiences.

I love having a sister, having grown up with a clutch of brothers (brother, half-brother and step-brothers). My half-brother whose father was my step-father shares no blood with my sister but they consider themselves related. They have never lived together indeed they have only seen each other twice but they connect via Facebook. My sister's mother died several years ago and she is very fond of my mother so is adopting her as a surrogate Mum. When my Dad (step-father) was alive my sister and her daughter visited my Mum and Dad and he behaved like a Dad and a Grandad towards them.

As an aside my daughter has a cousin who is my step-brother's step-son's step-daughter - we can decide ourselves to make relationships meaningful and recognise that love is more important than blood.

So with thoughts in my mind about what a family is, I am reminded and return to the beginning to reflect again on what a community is. Do we have to share a theology? Do we have to share experiences of a Sunday service? Do we need to share personality traits? Or do we just meet in the middle in a bit of a mess - being happy to be within this thing that we call a Unitarian community - moved by the feeling that love is more important than theology.