It’s so easy in this day and age to feel that everyone has forgotten about you! Isolation and loneliness can happen so easily in big cities. But it happens just as easily in rural villages too. Especially where there is no heart or hub for the community.
One of the villages in my linked charge is called Avonbridge. It’s at the edge of Falkirk District Council, on the border with West Lothian. And because it’s in the basin of Avon Valley, villagers say that winter can be the worst time. West Lothian snow ploughs stop at one side of the village, and Falkirk District’s can’t come down the steep brae on the other. Buses find it difficult to keep the schedule going, and folks huddle indoors because of bad weather. And that’s why they say, “Sometimes, it’s so easy to feel that everyone has forgotten about you”!
Our project (Project of Avonbridge Church and Community Together (PACCT)) is based around the Hub Café, and works with the Village Hall Committee. We’re trying to create a centre for community, where people of all ages can come together. The project focusses on families and the elderly, while the Hall Committee provide fantastic support for the young people in the village. Without that centre, social isolation can become a problem – even in a village with a population of just over 600.
One of the great traditions of Christianity is neighbourliness Sandi McGill, PACCT
One of the great traditions of Christianity is neighbourliness. But it seems that’s becoming less and less available in modern society. Folks keep to themselves, in their own homes. We step out of the door and into cars. We rush around the shops and come back home. We seldom encounter each other on a daily basis. And if we do, it’s often encounters of road rage, or irritation with people who are slow in the checkout queue.
A report from the Open University said: “A community development consultant has argued that neighbourliness requires ‘mutual recognition among residents through repeated informal encounters’. However, opportunities to bump into each other declined in the 20th Century, and they continue to decline”. This was also the focus of a ‘Tonight’ TV programme in January. Jonathon Maitland, looking back at the golden age of neighbourliness in the mid 20th Century, tried to bring a street together to celebrate community for the very first time. Some didn’t even know their next door neighbour!
Are we wondering how to be the missionary church in modern society? Sandi McGill, PACCT
Are we wondering how to be the missionary church in modern society? Then perhaps this is where we can make a big impact. Creating spaces where people can have those “repeated informal encounters”. This is where the Go For It Fund is helping us, with our community café. It’s an opportunity for us to share ordinary, everyday Good News with the poor, where poverty includes, but is wider than, financial concerns. It’s a place where we can remind folks that God cares … and that they are not forgotten.
Rev Sandi McGill
Project of Avonbridge Church and Community Together (PACCT)
About Avonbridge Church and Community Together
Project of Avonbridge Church and Community Together (PACCT) is an initiative of Avonbridge Parish Church. They receive Go For It funding to develop the café in the local Village Hall, by providing a Job Club, child care facilities and an upgraded kitchen to offer cookery and baking classes.