It’s a funny thing. It exists without even thinking about it, community wanders along like a river meandering where it will.
Some communities become marked by drugs, some by hatred, some by violence, some by wealth, some by faith…where people are a community of sort exists!
So as Christians, where do sit with regards to the community?
My experience at Vineyard Church Sutton gave me some good grounding in the community even though as it has been pointed out to me that we didn’t live in the community but then again neither did most of my friends, however i’m not too sure where the community was as it swallowed up about 250,000 people. It was of course Sutton but Central Sutton? or around the School where we met? or maybe around the Church Centre?
I was never too sure so I guess it was the whole of Sutton and that is a big area.
SVC has done some great things and here’s a taste.
- There is The Wendy House to start with, a place for mums and babies and pre-school age children. They meet in the Guide Hall in Clarence Road on Monday and Tuesday mornings from 9.45 until 11.15 am and the cost is £2 per family including refreshments, my wife recommends it and I guess it is probably the longest running community project looked after by the very capable Sonya.
- Street Pastors which I have to say I could not do go out on the High Street of Sutton every Friday and Saturday night usually from 9pm to 3am. The aim is to be a visible presence on the streets contributing to a safer Sutton. Sutton Street Pastors work in partnership with the ‘Safer Sutton Partnership’ local council, statutory agencies and local churches and from what I’ve seen this is helping as central Sutton is a pub/bar/club/alcohol…err…hub I guess you could call it!
- The Community action team will go and help anyone who needs help. I know they have cleared gardens, painted rooms, painted homes, helped with flat-packed furniture. The work it has done has been good although maybe a little sparse but they now have a new leader, Alozie who will be great and I expect projects will increase somewhat!
- There is Sutton foodbank. Foodbanks have become better known in the media and has been serving sutton community over the past 5 years. Several SVC congregation members serve on weekly rotas in a variety of locations. People from Sutton are referred to the Food Bank by Social Services, or their GPS or Health Visitors,and are given a few days supply of non perishable food items to tide them over.
Some great action by hard serving Christians.
So I wondered what my new Church St Mary’s would do and how it would approach the idea of community.
It is very different for several different reasons. St Mary’s is one of many Church of England churches in the area so I think the parish area comes into it, there are 13,000 in the UK, it is like a spiders web across the UK. Parishes are generally much smaller than that of the 250,000 catchment area of Sutton and far more ingrained but then again there has been a Church of England has been around for 500 years and has been on the site since the Doomsday Book, so it’s got to be a help really!
More than that though it is ingrained into the community with the older generation via groups like more tea vicar or friendship lunches or the Long Ditton Garden Club.
There is the younger generation with Cubs, Scouts, Brownie and Guides, these are all attached to the Church, but not only that, they are attached to the schools but infants and junior who in their turn are attached to the church with the rector taking a weekly assembly at the junior school and just being around and about the community.
As a church there are many more social events, some of these are used to raise money for various projects for the church, parish or international projects.
And I look forward to serving this community of people and I am involved in voluntary work in both St Mary’s School as a teaching assistant and St Mary’s Church as a Synod Rep, server, reader and odd jobber.
So both different and I think I can and will learn from my experience in both.