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Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Communities in Control - Post Conference Thoughts

Yep - still on this topic!

I got back yesterday from the Communities in Control conference in Melbourne. Unfortunately there weren't too many thrills.

There were a couple of interesting speakers and one that I would say was inspirational but overall the conference was very political with the bill dominated by trade unionists, including current ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions) president Sharron Burrows and Victorian Labor Party politicians.

Burrows' attempted to convince us that Australia's trade unions are the backbone of our communities and society. She also acknowledged a significant drop in union membership over the past few years, but dismissed it as a direct result of the current high standard of living we are experiencing in Australia. Nothing at all to do with the overall lack of relevance most Australians see trade unions as having then?

One of only a couple of exceptions at the conference was Afro-American activist Angela Glover-Blackwell. Glover-Blackwell is the Chief Executive Officer and founder of PolicyLink, a US based "research and action institute that works collaboratively to develop and implement local, state, and federal policies to achieve economic and social equity".

Her talk focused (apolitically) directly on community development initiatives that she has been involved in and the role of grass roots level advocacy for the marginalised and disadvantaged. While I have no idea of her religious persuasion she did refer to Jim Wallace in a couple of her answers to questions from the delegates that were pointedly anti-Christian and obviously influenced by the media's portrayal of the United States "religious right". She effectively shut the questioners down by affirming the role Christians of many and varied political persuasions play in the community service sector in the US.

The conference finished up with a special concert (actually just two songs) by one of my favourite Australian musicians, Paul Kelly. Paul and Aboriginal activist and musician Kev Carmody performed From little things big things grow, a tune that has become a bit of a social activism anthem in this country, along with a couple of other popular numbers.

Probably the best thing to come from the conference though was the opportunity it gave me to think more about the relationship, as it currently exists, between church and community. The more I think about it the more I think I see the intrinsic significance of the church's involvement in community development as part of its fulfillment of Christ's commission. In fact I think it is essential that any missional approach to church also be an approach that involves community development on a broader scale.

I'll post a bit more on this tomorrow.

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