Showing posts with label social. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social. Show all posts

24 May 2013

A chat at Nero's

Discussion at the cafe today turned towards need and resources, and how churches and governments in particular might help when people are facing difficulty. We decided that they don't always do all they should. When that happens should we agitate for them to do better or just step in to fill the gap?

Inside the cathedral in Mexico City
I've been spending more time at Caffè Nero during the last few weeks. It's been good to get to know some of the guys there, there's a real social buzz about the place.

Today there was some conversation about the need to help people in difficulty, we considered that traditional church has considerable resources that could be mobilised to help.

I was reminded of a story my old work colleague, Phil, used to tell.

Phil and his intrepid travelling companion Tony have covered a lot of ground together. They spent weeks and weeks in India one year, travelling light, depending on local hospitality, shunning the tourist scene and hotels, getting to know the people and experiencing India as it really is.

Trip to Mexico - They did a similar trip to Mexico, and it was here that the story was based. One day they were in a square in Mexico City (I think). There was a cathedral in the square and they went inside to take a look. It was full of gold, expensive vessels, gilded statues, rich needlework and carved stone and wood.

As they left the building they noticed a beggar who was not allowed inside. The cathedral was for rich people only, particularly tourists. The beggar was hungry, dressed in filthy rags, crippled, and needing help. The contrast between the beggar and the riches inside the cathedral was extreme.

Phil and Tony walked away angry that such a situation existed and in deep sorrow. I can't even begin to describe the way they must have felt about church. Would you rather be the beggar or the bishop who manages the cathedral?

Dealing with injustice - The world is full of injustice. We discussed some aspects of this at Nero's, but we can't change other people and we can't change the church, or the government, or the wealthy. We might have some influence with our vote, we can express an opinion, we can write to our MP, but those may make little difference and they certainly won't meet today's need - even if they might improve things a little in the long run. (But don't hold your breath.)

It seems to me that each one of us is responsible for loving the people we see around us. Jesus didn't lobby the Sanhedrin or the Roman governor to do more - he just healed the sick, cast out demons, touched lepers, fed the hungry, and made extra wine for a wedding.

I don't think the way forward is to criticise the government, the church, or the wealthy. I must do whatever I can to help anyone in need (whether that's for food, for a roof, or just for a friendly smile and a kind word). If we all did our bit, nobody would go short. Everyone can do something. It's not about resources, it's mostly about noticing and willingness to get involved. So the question is, what am I going to do about it and what are you going to do about it?

We will all have to give an account of the way we have lived. When that time comes would you rather be the beggar or the bishop who manages the cathedral?

Questions:

  • How many ways can you think of helping someone in need - assuming you have no resources? (There are plenty of ways, here are a few to get you started. Talk to people, listen, smile.)
  • How much influence do you have over organisations? Most of us have very little.
  • Is complaining ever a useful thing to do? If so, explain why and how.
  • What are the main barriers to helping people you don't know?

See also:

01 November 2012

Dunbar and 130 to 160

< Groups of sixty to eighty | Index | No later items >

The Dunbar Number represents the size limit for meaningful social interaction with others. We need to be careful that we don't have so many church friends that we have no remaining capacity for close social connections with neighbours and others.

Prof Robin DunbarThere is a value called the 'Dunbar Number' which is about 150. Robin Dunbar, a British anthropologist and pschologist, proposed that this was a natural limit to human group size. He wrote that it is ...
... a cognitive limit to the number of individuals with whom any one person can maintain stable relationships, that this limit is a direct function of relative neocortex size, and that this in turn limits group size ... the limit imposed by neocortical processing capacity is simply on the number of individuals with whom a stable inter-personal relationship can be maintained.

In other words, groups much larger then 150 are too large for the members to know one another in a continuous and meaningful way. We simply cannot interact regularly with more people than this. We may know about other people and we may meet other people but we can't really get to know them adequately in a social sense. Knowing someone personally involves spending time with them more or less regularly and 150 is the approximate limit of our ability to do this.

In church life - So in a church context, although we might meet in larger numbers than this, we can expect to only properly know a subset of the people present. And if we regularly socialise with 150 church friends, we will not have much capacity remaining to socialise with neighbours, work colleagues, or the other people we meet day by day. And that is a problem.

Why is it a problem? Simply because we are supposed to be making disciples! We can only make disciples by spending time with the people around us in a social context. To do so our existing regular social group needs to be smaller than the Dunbar number of 150. If we maximise the number of friends we have in the church, we are automatically minimising the number we can maintain in the world. And we do not go into the church to make disciples, but into the world.

Practical suggestions - My advice is to expect church to involve smaller numbers, two or three, six to twenty, and for special purposes sixty to eighty. Meanwhile, focus some effort on having good social involvement with as many non-church people as possible. These will include your wider family, your neighbours and those you share an interest with or work alongside. These are the pools in which you may discover future disciples.

Recognise that good fellowship is possible with the twos and threes and with the sixes to twenties. Do you really need more than that? Weigh up the benefits and the costs of larger church groups than these. What will be gained and what will be lost if your entire capacity to socialise is spent within the church community?

Questions:
  • If you meet regularly with others in a group this size, how many would you say are your friends?
  • How do you relate to the others, those who are not close friends?
  • Are there arrangements to meet in smaller groups at other times? Does this help?

See also:

< Groups of sixty to eighty | Index | No later items >

21 October 2011

SOCIETY - Goodbye Facebook

Goodbye Facebook? Yes, I'm leaving, it was good to know you but I'm moving on. I'm tired of the constant changes. I have the feeling Facebook doesn't listen to its users as much as it should. The frantic response to Google+ was the last straw.

I won't be reading material on Facebook regularly from now on - follow me instead on Google+. You don't need to be logged in to read my public updates.

My Google+ pageI'll continue posting blog articles to my Facebook wall for the time being, but nothing else.

If you choose to sign up to G+ yourself you will be able to respond to my updates just as you have on Facebook.

I've been happily using Google+ almost from its launch in the summer. I like just more or less everything about it, especially its clean, uncluttered appearance. The only drawback is that so few of my friends are on G+ but I've decided to lead the way by closing down Facebook sooner rather than later.

So remember -  Visit Google+ to read most of my stuff even if you're not on G+ yourself.
Set up a G+ account if you want to respond to me. Or stick to good old email if you want to say something to me but don't wish to join G+.

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