This is a copy of my article for the APRIL 2013 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’

I have recently completed studying for an MA and, for my dissertation, I examined the significance of Neighbourhood and Community. I found that neighbourhoods are chosen very carefully with many factors involved in deciding where to live, such as: location; style of housing; quality of schools; commutability; shopping and leisure facilities.

Increasingly, however, it is being recognised that communities are defined as much by the networks people move in as by the neighbourhoods they live in. We know that many people travel long distances to participate in community, such as the gym; sports club; hobby group; pub; even church!

This raises the question, of course, whether community is physical or relational.  Some sociologists propose five essential areas when defining the nature of community:

  • Geographical: Where you live; walk the dog and shop!
  • Professional: Your place of work; school, college or university.
  • Social: The pub; restaurant; gym; and sports club.
  • Cultural: This would include arts; music; and theatre.
  • Spiritual: This may be a church, temple, synagogue or other places of worship.

All of these, it is suggested, have equal importance if we are to develop as wholesome human beings who contribute to the well being of the community, and the neighbourhood, in which we live.

The Bible has a lot to say about community. In fact, some of Jesus’ most famous words challenge us about what it means to be a good neighbour.  Remember when Jesus said that we are to:

… Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and Love your neighbour as yourself.

Luke 10:27

What is the difference between a neighbourhood and a community? Might it be that a neighbourhood is where we live but a community is how we live? As both Pope Francis and the Archbishop of Canterbury reminded us recently:

… in humility and simplicity, we are to protect each other and our world.

What might you be able to do this month to support your neighbours and to strengthen the community in which you have chosen to live?   You’ll be surprised at the difference you can make.