Today I want to look at the next two questions together.
3. What are the priorities and needs the community around us?
4. Then what new priorities might our congregation need to focus on today to help the congregations of 2025?
Yesterday we talked a little bit about what the what the community will look like in ten years. But what are some of the trends right now in our community? We can look around and we can see some wonderful young families, some of them are from the community and have grown up in the community and stayed in the community. Some of the families are newer to the community, like mine, and we are finding all the wonderful community charm that is present in Arthur. For some people there is a deep interconnectedness in our community that those who are new are still learning about. There are many different forms of families in our community, some are two parent, some single, some mixed, some blended, foster families, some with many people in the family working others who are not able to work at this time. Some people are struggling with relationships while others are working through problems each day. In our community there are families and people who are single, living away from their families. In other words, we have a variety of people here in Arthur, no it is not as diverse as Toronto, but there is diversity in families, in relationships, in socio-economics, in living arrangements, in where people work, even in ethnicity and backgrounds. We have differences in religion with eight different eight different churches in town.
In Arthur we have a downtown that is in transition. We have solid businesses that have been in place for years, we have new businesses that are trying to make a go of it but we also have places that are sitting vacant waiting for someone to try something new. In the wider community we have different plants and retail and service businesses that help to support the people in the community and surrounding communities. We cannot forget about all the hard work that the people in the agriculture industry, from family farms all the way up to the large operations, put into providing food, work, and who bless this community in so many ways. And we have a number of service clubs that work tirelessly to enrich the culture and build into the lives of the people of Arthur. That being said there are also a number of people who commute to work, whether it is Fergus, Mount Forest, Guelph, Orangeville, Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge, and many other places. Some people go to church in some of those places, some do there shopping there, some are going to doctors and specialists there.
Education wise, we have three schools, all at the elementary level, an alternative education facility, the learning centre, home schoolers, and a number of home daycares. At the high school level the youth are transported from here to a number of different places including Mount Forest, Fergus, Guelph and some to Palmerston. Even though they are away during the day, they come back in the evenings for a while. When it comes to those that want to go to College or University, many of them have to leave the community, whether it is just for a week or for semesters at a time and for some it is the whole year. For some they have to move away to find a job in their field and or to find a job that they can do to make a living.
In our community there are still strong community ties but there are some who do not have the same familiarness as other people do. One of the ways that people stay connected here is through sports: hockey, lacrosse, baseball, soccer and karate to name a few. These are draws for many age groups to come out and participate. There are also a number of clubs, from horticulture to 4H, and many more. These are all things that people find valuable and a good way of coming together and building friendships or at the very least having something to do to grow and spend some of their time doing something that they enjoy doing. Churches have also been places that help to build community, help to share life together, and help to bring hope and love into people’s lives no matter what their background is. There are even more initiatives going on that we are not aware that are going on.
One initiative that has become very big in our community is the #Get In Touch For Hutch group and event. The community has come together out of tragedy to make a difference against mental illness. A need and a reason was taken and this group spearheaded by the Hutchison family after the death of their son and brother Steven. While there has been tragedy in our town, the community has pulled together to support each other to let each other know that we are all important and we are not alone.
Youth for Christ has continued to make a difference in the lives of youth in our community through the Door ministry. Also The Arthur Second Look store has continued to pour support back into the town, the community, and the people.
This, while long, is just a snap shot of what is going on in the community. There are different seniors groups, summer programs that are awesome and inviting people to be a part of the community. As we look around and see what is going on in the community what do you see. What are the areas of strength and what are the areas of growth, and what are the areas that are struggling? What is being done and what could be done? This exercise is a cross between being very detailed oriented and having the courage to day dream and through out ideas. As a church how are we going to need to change to minister to the realities around us now and the realities that are coming into being for the future? How are we as a community of faith going to be able to boldly step into our community now and in the future and continue to share the love of Jesus, the hope that He brings, the second and third chances etc, that we have been given because of His unending love for us? Changes will have to be made, but the Gospel that has changed me and so many people around the world has not and will not change, God’s love as seen through Jesus is a real hope for yesterday, today, and even tomorrow. What are you thoughts?