Church and Community – Building Healthy Relationships
Milpara is committed to the Church playing a major role in the development and maintenance of civil society. Indeed, churches with their physical and human resources, as well as their inspiration from Jesus to love your neighbour (without qualification), are well positioned in the community. The Church can be a potent part of community, being able to listen and respond to many of the needs of individuals and whole communities. For this reason alone, communities need churches, and of course, churches need community.
When the Church stands apart, doesn’t share its story with the whole community, is not fully aware of the challenges facing local people and doesn’t work with other community groups, the chance of it being a relevant, valued member of vibrant society is reduced. Milpara is addressing this in partnership with willing congregations and their leaders.
A number of people from diverse parts of the Uniting Church, with long histories of commitment to their congregations and the UCA as a whole, have reflected on what makes for healthy congregations and communities. Their brainstorming, reading, consultations with key people in the UCA, and conferencing with community focussed organisations such as the Queensland Community Alliance has produced an action plan. Their encouragement and the availability of some finance from a benefactor have allowed Milpara to employ experienced and qualified people to manage the plan.
In essence this is an action research and action learning exercise. We will invite every Queensland congregation to participate at a level suited to their circumstances.
In the initial phase of the project, we will be working to establish effective working relationships with one or two people from each congregation that is willing and keen to join the project. This phase will develop at a pace appropriate to each participating congregation’s life.
Together we will unlock the power of shared understandings and aspirations, and identify active or proposed community activities of each participating congregation. Some congregations may not be able to identify a current activity. They will be still invited to join in the ‘conversation’.
We are aware that there is a great deal of activity that could be called ‘community engagement’ already operating through our congregations. We plan to identify and share these examples and offer them to all participants.
The Milpara team envisages facilitating a purposeful conversation amongst congregations as they share their ideas successes and perceived failures.
The compounding of practical ideas, and reflection on them, will form the basis for new initiatives and the offering of ways to overcome challenges, solve problems and organise people and resources.
Some money is available to assist in certain situations, but groups will be encouraged and assisted with identifying local resource support.
Some of the tools for the Milpara Action Plan are:
- Story telling
- Table talk
- Relationship building
- Use of media including social media
- Development of relationships with government agencies and representatives
- Overcoming cultural dissonance, and
At all times congregations and their leaders will retain ownership of what they do and nothing that the Project does is designed to reduce the capacity of our congregations to fully implement their spiritual agendas. While not being directly under the supervision of Synod, it is also designed to support current initiatives of the Synod and the Synod’s own commitment to community engagement. There will be regular reports to Synod and consultations with appropriate people in the Synod.
We are excited about this initiative and looking forward to building some wonderful and long term relationships with congregations throughout Queensland.