Community – complexities, challenges and contexts
On 22 February 2012, many of the people of Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand, and many other places around the world, paused to reflect on the devastating events of that same day in 2011. We were reminded of suffering, death, heroism, miracles, chaos, courage and the fundamental importance of family and community.
Last night, a small group which Fraser and I belong to viewed the opening portion of the 'New Normal' DVD, in which several Christian leaders poignantly share their experiences in the days and months post February 22, 2011.
I was again struck by the following comments:
Sandra and John Alpe, looking visibly weary and fragile said: “ We experienced true koinonia.....for the church, it's gone on and on.....It's whetted my appetite for what real connection (with our community) is.”
Chris Chamberlain, pastor of Oxford Terrace: “The earthquake has thrown us into the community......it's nothing but good.”
Jono Campbell, Te Ora Hou Otautahi: “The church has broken out of its walls....the risk is that we will say 'Now we are in recovery mode, let's focus back on Sunday mornings'.”
I listened to leaders from Parklands and Kaiapoi and Grace Vineyard reflecting on the ability of the Christian churches to rapidly respond to community need because they already had established relationships and networks in their communities.
On 22 February 2012, in the Christchurch Press, MP Lianne Dalziel wrote: “A community team formed under the leadership of the Grace Vineyard church, with pastors Sam Harvey and Dave McGregor a constant source of energy and inspiration. Their ability to bring together volunteers and literally create a food distribution centre from nothing was awesome.....Over in Parklands pastor Chris Ponniah opened the church's facilities to the community...”
Another conversation impacted on me this week. It focussed on a church in which a controlling eldership was undermining a potentially life changing opportunity to build community amongst a group of needy people. But this initiative didn't fit with their plans as elders and so they had withdrawn support, leaving a frustrated pastor wondering about the quality of koinonia in his own leadership team and their apparent blindness to the opportunity to meet a request to serve genuine community need.
These two experiences have set me thinking about how much the quality of 'koinonia' in our leadership teams impacts upon our capacity to be the agents of transformational change in our wider communities. Whether it's a Trust board, an oversight team, a community ministry management group, a ministry leaders' team, a large NGO, or whatever, I believe that the quality of true community – koinonia - shared in the context and day to day activity of that group, will determine the impacts and effectiveness of their work in their wider constituency. That is, to be an agent in transforming communities we need to walk the talk first and foremost in our own organisations.
So what builds koinonia in an organisation? Certainly not a leadership which is hierarchical and whose default mode, when faced with opposition or conflicting views, is to take inflexible control.
A good example I know of is a Christian NGO which has a regular weekly staff meeting involving about 40 staff, plus board and sometimes Trust members. They usually eat together – very important! They break up into small groups to pray into one another's lives and also for matters facing their organisation. They know one another's children's names because this organisation is family-centred. They have at times focussed discussions on material such as the NZ Bible Society's ‘Essential Jesus’, to build faith and encourage true koinonia. I like that. I think Jesus would be joyful about this kind of community building which is more than words and modelled first within their organisation. What do you think?
National Team Leader
Baptist Community Ministries
if you would welcome assistance and if you have brilliant innovative ideas which you want to progress into initiatives which will transform our communities.