A Theology for Community Ministry
As a national Church the Church of England maintains a presence in every community through the parish system. Our churches are communities of and for the area and the people who live there. That presence enables the church to engage with the lives of our villages, towns and cities in both rich and poor neighbourhoods. The Church of England has a fundamental concern about the quality of life in community, and often works alongside other partners (churches, faith groups, the voluntary sector, schools and councils) to seek justice and wellbeing.
Fundamental to the Church's life in all communities is the commitment of the Christian faith to all that is life-giving and enhancing. Implicit to the Church is a corporate understanding of human community that through mutuality and solidarity the strong parts of the body should care for and strengthen the weaker. A commitment to understanding and struggling with issues of social and economic justice are central to our faith - a significant characteristic of this is the emphasis placed on the human dimension of poverty - the person experiencing poverty is to be assisted as a brother or sister (Matthew 25), to devalorise people and the places they live, is to lose sight of the image of God in which they were created and God's realm in which they live. Those corporate dynamics in the Church mean it is impossible to compartmentalise faith and life.
At the heart of the message of Jesus is the declaration of the reign of God - a radical reordering of resources, values and attitudes; an active resistance of powers that would divide, distort or exclude human communities. Redemptive activities such as the offering of forgiveness and the cancellation of debt are the essential activities of this new order. There is no dilemma between love of God and love of neighbour but rather a new possibility of encountering God through acts of solidarity and compassion. To raise-up, include and claim justice for the poor is a sign of active partnership with the re-ordering stimulus of God's reign and Christians are encouraged to seek allies to engage in such activity. By living as salt, light and yeast, Christians are called to live real presence through communities that include, strengthen and give integrity to those at the margins. If we are to identify the neighbour we are called to love as anyone who our activity or inactivity can affect, the task becomes truly global.
Working with others is an aspect of the dynamic mutuality (koinonia) that should be apparent in the Church's own life and mission, as it supports the poorest, seeks the justice of God's reign and celebrates the contribution of every part of the body. This is an aspect of our participation in God's renewing and regenerative activity, we should not be surprised to find others engaged in the same. (Mark 9.40) The practise of koinonia in the Church is a sign of the possibility of human community at a profound level, and links us with our doctrinal understanding of God in community as trinity.