A vicar’s view: London terror attack reminds us that communities matter
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John Adams, co-author and signatory of the American Declaration of Independence and the second president of the USA, wrote towards the end of his life to Thomas Jefferson, who would succeed him as president, 'My friend, you and I have lived in serious times.'
Reflecting on the recent terrible events in London, and on all that is happening around the world, I have little doubt that if Adams were alive today he would think his sentiment equally apt.
Acts of terror, and actions of political and national elitism, are often aimed at causing social fracture, pitting one group against another and I wonder if our march towards individualism is inadvertently assisting this? I write this on my 'personal' computer, an 'i'Mac, make calls on my 'i'Phone, where I can engage, at arms length with my 'Friends' on Facebook. It's actually 'i'solation.
I watch as people, headphones on and eyes on screens, narrowly avoid walking into other people, or worse, just miss being run over as they walk out in front of traffic. In a bizarre contradiction 'My Way' is the most popular song at funerals whilst fear of being lonely and isolated is a greater fear than dying for people as the grow older.
We are social beings. We need each other. We need social cohesion, mutual support, nurture and care. I grew up in such a community. My Grandfather had a local building business and we lived next door to him and my Grandma, and next door but one to her sister, Aunty Ethel.
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Aunty Marie (no relation – she was my Grandma's school friend!) lived across the road, with her sister, Aunty Ginger (yes, that was what everyone called her). My mother worked in the local Post Office and helped to found the 'West End Community Centre'.
My father walked to work at the docks. When I was no older than eight or nine, I used to walk down the road to, amongst other things, get the family meat from the family butchers – Goulby and Knott, where Mr Goulby and Mr Knott knew me very well, as apparently did absolutely everyone else in the area, as my mother reveled in telling me! 'You'd better be good! Everyone knows you around here!!'
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We didn't go to church when I was young but, when my mother was very ill in the last week of her life, I opened the door to the local vicar who called because he'd 'heard on the grapevine' that she was very unwell. People didn't just know about each other. They knew each other.
Where is the seat of community cohesion now? As large housing developments rise up in Norwich what provision is there for community centres and church buildings?
When Jesus said the words 'I will build my church' he was referring to a community of love and mutual support. The word translated 'church' means 'a group or gathering of people'. It's a community. That's why church buildings, when used effectively, are community centres.
I am passionate to see community thrive which is why, in June, The Mitre pub on Earlham Road will re-open its doors, refurbished and revitalised, as a place for the whole community to come together in enjoyment, entertainment and encouragement.
A meeting place for all, where we can not only enjoy great coffee and light meals together, a glass of wine or a craft beer, but also help and support one another, find out what needs our neighbours have and see what we might do to alleviate those needs – together.
It's why the community centre on Russell Street is currently being renovated and will be reopening on April 29 with a party between 2pm and 5pm to which everyone is invited.
It's why St Albans church building, on Grove Walk, is now open six days a week and busy with community activities (and great coffee!).
Do take a look at our website – www.stn.org.uk - to check up on all that is happening.
Love for each other, for community, is at the heart of Christianity. Community matters. It really does.