Family & Community
Christianity is a family-centred religion. Jesus’ mother, Mary, is mentioned in the birth and death stories of Jesus and his earthly father Joseph has a key place in the birth stories. Jesus’ concept of God is based on a very familiar relationship of that between a father and his son, and Jesus uses the term ‘abba’, the diminutive form of ‘father’ and meaning ‘daddy’, to express how close that relationship with God can be. Jesus was a Jew and for Judaism the family unit was the core of the community and society. It is hardly surprising then that the family unit is extremely important in Christian life. The rituals of bringing children into the faith, through familiarity with festivals such as Christmas and Easter, and celebrations such as baptism, are extremely important introductions to the beliefs and practices of the faith. However, family commitment is also seen through regular church attendance, through family grace at meals, reading the bible at home and praying at bedtime. A Christian family might also support charity, either financially or with a time commitment, either at home or in developing countries.
Christianity is the historical religion of the UK and the evidence for this can be found in all dioceses and parishes in the country. Many parishes in both rural and urban settings have their own church and with it a priest or vicar. Outreach community workers are found based within most Christian churches, regardless of denomination. The parish church has a committee called a Parochial Church Council whose primary function is to support the vicar to ensure worship is regular the church is well maintained. Similar duties are undertaken by denominations. However, the church in the community will also want to reach out further than to its own congregation. In many rural areas, outreach is through putting on events such as flower festivals and fetes, but also through visiting the old and sick, or providing meals in the church hall. In more urban areas where there might be deprivation, the church has always had a significant place and active support of urban renewal initiatives are commonplace. Church halls become community centres and youth clubs. Younger mothers can meet and chat. Church buildings are renovated to become community facilities. Chad Varah, the founder of the Samaritans, first began his work in a church crypt.
Church members are expected to find their own level of use and commitment. The church considers itself a ‘corporate body’, based on St Paul’s concept of the human body, each member having its own use. Similarly, the church believes it has mission commitments in order to reach out to the community and demonstrate the Christian life. The parish church particularly, but also the Methodist or Baptist chapel, the Catholic church, the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall are symbols of the influence of Christianity within a community.
Belonging to the family of the church brings with it companionship and a sense of belonging to a local and a worldwide community. Through this network, a Christian believes that part of the Kingdom of God on earth can be realised.
Christians believe that their values and beliefs are best supported through the family unit. From this basis these values can permeate through to the wider community and indeed, society as a whole.
Community cohesion is at its best where all members of that society care for each member. It is the belief of Christians that they must do this. Christian leaders are well aware of the way the UK’s religious landscape is changing and of the need to respond to the nature of this change. It is the responsibility of all Christians to accept this roles and when necessary, rise to this challenge.
Jesus is reported in the Gospels to have been called to a special relationship with God – that of a son with his father. The example of Jesus has enabled people of faith to explain their own faith in the light of this relationship and gain inspiration accordingly.