So I have lived here at GMV for around 16 month now. I am nearly half way through my contract … 3 years was always a crazy timescale to get something new happening here, but we are running with it and trusting God.
A large part of the last year has seen me doing a lot of observing and watching. Those of you that have travelled with me on this blog will know that I learned at Rochester that it was important to wait and properly listen, rather than do what churches have often done in the past … and offer something that they think is needed (which in my experience is often some manufactured generic thing that works elsewhere) which fails because it is far removed from what the people are looking for in reality.
I have seen lots of ‘projects’ done to people or answers being given to questions that the local people are not asking … and I have felt strongly that we did not wish to be like that.
I have listened for a year.
I have had many conversations asking 3 questions …. what do you like about living here?, what frustrates you about living here?, and what is lacking here? Questions that were put together in a meeting with great people at Livability.
The locations for those conversations have been limited and restricted mainly to the coffee shop, residents meetings and the bus stop. One fact that has prevented me from meeting more people is the sheer lack of community space that there is here … there is a great coffee shop … and the is kind of it.
So what have I learned?
A lot of people feel lonely and even more, nearly half interviewed, believe there is no community feel here.
It is easy to dismiss those findings and say there is stuff here as someone bluntly pointed out to me around a year ago when I started this survey … but if people are saying this is lacking then we need to respond.
So … I guess my question has adapted from a year ago in my dream for Holy Trinity here.
I came asking how do we bless the community and get involved here …. I’m now asking how can we partner with others to develop a stronger community feel here so that when the survey is repeated that ‘community feel’ is an overwhelming positive rather than a demoralising lacking.
It seems. however, that new builds like ours, and in which I currently live, are not primarily designed with community in mind. They are, maybe, designed with privacy as a motivation. I am an outgoing person but see very few people in my block of 16 apartments and only know 3 other names of people sharing my front door. I met an elderly couple who told me they have lived here for 10 years and only know the neighbours that share their landing … but that they only come across them 2 or 3 times a year.
I get the privacy thing.
I understand people getting home from a day in the city and the last thing they want is a knock on the front door.
There are times I come home and really don’t want to see or talk to anyone.
But to do that continually, and if that becomes a pattern, do we then start to fool ourselves that our own company, rather than community, is what we want?
Because … if we do … I am not sure that is a good thing for our basic humanity.
Ian talks about an energy deficit model which I think may shed some light here. It goes something like this:
People feel they have only a limited amount of energy. This energy is then used wisely with people feeling they have to conserve energy for work and essential tasks. This means that when invited somewhere, like a community meal or a drink out for example, they feel they don’t have the energy and so decline. On the occasions they go for the meal or drink they realise by the end of it that they are energised and it was actually what they needed. I believe this is because we are created to be in community, not hiding away in apartments.
Sadly I feel this model is quite evident here … and that when people do attend, they do get that energy burst, but then easily forget about it as the real city life world comes crashing in again.
Maybe we need to vie things differently? From a different perspective? By turning things upside down?
So … people also living in other gated communities in cities …
How do we grow community?
How do we encourage people to interact together?
How do we remind people that its better for their energy levels to be in community
How do we live as fully as possible in places which seem to be designed to hide or protect us from each other ….
and to protect us from what?!
So …. just …. ‘HOW?”
Feel free to answer … or comment … or anything really!