Transition Culture, Community and the Local Church

This article should be read by everyone concerned with communicating the gospel and planting churches in Britain.

Although written to explain the phenomenon of the Transition Movement (the grass roots environmental network that seeks to explore ways of enabling local communities to adapt to a post-oil environment) , author Jay Griffiths also provides an insightful description of urban life in C21 Britain - the culture many of us are called to minister into.

The article provides insight into one of the crucial "felt needs" (not to mention actual needs!) of modern society: the need for community.

Whatever else we think of the nature and practice of the local church, I'm sure that most of us would feel that fellowship ought to be one of its key components. My own view is that fellowship is also at the heart of how we communicate the good news: the medium becomes the message. We model what we speak - of God's redeeming love and the creation of a new humanity in Christ.

Invaluable reading as a discussion starter for those committed to seeing the local church engage effectively with the un-churched majority around it.

Among the many quotable insights from jay Griffith's article:

  • Many people feel that individual action [on climate change] is too trivial to be effective but that they are unable to influence anything at a national, governmental level. They find themselves paralyzed between the apparent futility of the small-scale and impotence in the large-scale.
  • At a government level, I find I’ve shrunk, smaller than the X on my ballot paper.
  • We speak of economies of scale, and I would suggest that there are also moralities of scale.
  • Community morality involves a sense of fellow-feeling, is attuned to the common good, far steadier than individual morality, far kinder than the State.
  • The fact that they were trying out an idea without being able to predict the results has a vitality to it, an intellectually energetic quality, a profound liveliness.
  • William Morris spoke of the gentle social-ism that he called fellowship: “Fellowship is life, and lack of fellowship is death.”
  • Many people today experience a strange hollow in the psyche, a hole the size of a village.
  • In this extreme isolation, we don’t interact except with the television and the computer. We’ve lost something, and we don’t know what it is, and we try to fill it with food and alcohol and shopping but it’s never filled—what we’ve lost is our connection to our community, our place, and nature.
  • The colonial powers practiced the policy of “divide and rule” ... but in contemporary society there is a more insidious policy of “atomize and rule.” The world of mass media fragments real societies into solitary individuals, passive recipients of information.
  • Although the French Revolution announced that it stood for three things, only two of these (Liberty and Equality) have survived in political parlance while the third, Fraternity, has been made to sound both quaint and unnecessary.
  • We are ineluctably and gloriously social animals. We want fellowship.
  • Celebrity culture is an opposite of community, informing us that these few nonsense-heads matter but that the rest of us do not. Insidiously, the television tells me I am no one. If I was Someone, I’d be on telly.
  • Celebrity culture is both a cause and a consequence of the low self-esteem that mars so many people’s lives. So, the unacknowledged individual is manipulated into a jealousy of acknowledgment, which is why it is so telling that huge numbers of young people insist that when they grow up they want to be a celebrity.
  • We all need acknowledgment (but not fame). We all need recognition (but not to be “spotted” out shopping). We all need to be known, we need our selves confirmed by others, fluidly, naturally. A sense of community has always provided these familiar, unshowy acts of ordinary recognition.

Comments, please.

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