Talking Point – September 2023

What makes a community?

ONE OF the main aims of ‘Caversham Bridge’, and one of the things it does so well, is to promote a sense of community in Caversham and Emmer Green.
It has started me thinking about what makes a community. We are distinct individuals – some living alone and some in families. What is it that prompts a sense of belonging to, and identifying with, a particular neighbourhood?
It may be that the people we relate to most closely outside our immediate family are our closer neighbours; and the quality of that relationship, or its lack, can strongly affect how we feel about where we live.
But beyond that, what makes a community seems to be affected by where people meet. A community like Caversham may have a whole series of mini-communities within it.
Each school, each pub, each church, each workplace, our shops and restaurants, and the library, may all have their regulars who feel a sense of belonging to that localised community – a community within the Community of Caversham.
Beyond that are other groupings specifically designed to promote the community’s health: local councillors, the Caversham and District Residents Association, Caversham Good Neighbours, Gossip Girls, and GP surgeries, among others.
Before lockdown, a number of churches had been discussing the needs of people in Caversham, and one conclusion reached was that there could be a dominant need of companionship to counteract the loneliness felt by people of any age living on their own. Solitude and personal space can be desirable, but only up to a point. We all need other people. And lockdown may have underlined just how deep this need is!
‘Caversham Bridge’ highlights how major events can bring us together, how common interest groups can do that, and of the significant part played by local shops, eating places, schools and churches alongside other groupings, in drawing us out of isolation into some form of significant meeting and relating.
One of the sections in ‘Caversham Bridge’ is headed ‘Building our community’ and that may well be an aim with which each reader of this paper will want to identify.
It may begin in small ways from befriending neighbours, to engaging with strangers. The desire to build community here may well arise from the thought – how can I or any group to which I belong help to combat loneliness for someone else?
Revd. David Jenkins is a member of the
Methodist Team Ministry