Understanding our local community matters – an exegetical walk

Understanding our local community matters – an exegetical walk

Series: Our Neighbourhood
Theme: Understanding our local community matters – an exegetical walk.
Bible Reading: Numbers 1: 1 – 3 / Luke 14: 28 – 30
Preacher: Rev Kevin Kim
Date: 30 January, 2022

To build a better understanding of our local community, we as placemakers need careful, sensitive and critical observation. The word exegesis means a critical interpretation and we are required to read our neighbourhood as one of the primary texts of daily life. One good example of this exegetical practice is ‘community mapping’. We will explore how we can become better placemakers to bring the good news of Jesus into our community through those exercises.

Click here to download PowerPoint Slide PDF

After I showed you my half mown backyard, a couple of people asked me about that over the last few days. One of my neighbours who is member of 9 am service actually visited us to offer to use their lawn mover! And they gave us a delicious Anzac biscuit. This is what I did on my day off.
Over the last two weeks, we thought about ‘why the neighbourhood matters? / Does your neighbour matter?’ and learned about ‘placemaker’. This week, we will explore how we can understand better our community to become more effective placemakers.
Queensland Synod developed this program called, “Stats have Faces” to
help local congregation build a better understanding of their communities and to engage more effectively in mission in their neighbourhood.
Sometimes we don’t know as much about our own communities as we think we do. Sometimes what we once knew is no longer the case.
All agencies and service and care providers are encouraged to carry out research in relation to their local community. Churches should be no different. While communities might share similarities such as schools, shops and sporting facilities, each one is unique with its own character and potential.
The Basis of Union says that the Uniting Church “stands in relation to contemporary societies in ways which will help it to understand its own nature and mission”. The more we understand our communities, those that live in them and their needs, the better we can serve God in being effective in mission.
You may wonder why I have chosen those two Bible readings. They are actually two passages of Bible Study in this ‘Stats have faces’ program.
Statistics play an important role in the history of the Old Testament. The Book of Numbers is named after two “countings” of the people of Israel. The Israelite community was preparing for a journey through the wilderness to the land of Canaan. God said to Moses that “take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their father’s houses. God wanted the count made by their families because the strength of Israel was determined by looking at the strength of individual families.
Our Gospel reading from Luke suggests that the accurate numbers are necessary for informed decisions. In the parable of the tower Jesus said, “Sit down and see if you can afford to follow me.” We all need this kind of planning and preparation processes. We, church can use statistics and measurement information. Discerning what God is up to in our neighbourhoods is not so much about skills or knowledge as about to hear God together and discovering how we might join with what the Spirit is already doing it our community.
What information would be helpful in assisting our congregation to join with what the Spirit is already doing in our community?
Let’s look at the Ku-Ring-gai council

  • Age, you can compare, where you
    There can be two simple exercises you can explore to have better understanding of your local community. The first one is an exegetical walk.
    The word exegesis literally means a critical interpretation and is commonly applied to the study of literature. As readers of the Bible, we exegete the text with a view to discerning its truth for our lives. In this exercise you are invited to undertake an exegesis of your neighbourhood.
    It’s about reading your neighbourhood as one of the primary texts of daily life.
    Before you head out for your walk, think about how you define your neighborhood and how it’s physically laid out. Draw yourself a map, including your own home, the basic street patterns, and any landmarks, shops, commercial or community buildings, schools or parks.
    Once you have a rough idea of what area to include, grab a notebook and pen and head out.
    Be sure to include time to stop and have a drink, to sit in a park or at a bus stop. Don’t just look at your surroundings, but take note of your feelings and reactions. These might be the questions you want to ask – Where are the places of life, hope, beauty or community in this neighbourhood? In what ways do you sense God’s presence where you live? Do you pass any churches or religious buildings? What does their design or appearance communicate to you?

The second tool is ‘Community asset mapping’. Asset mapping is a positive-focused way of celebrating community resources and connecting individuals, organisations and spaces for collaboration, empowerment and support. In this process, you work out who are the key people, what are the key places, in our community so that we can see how we can partner with them. It’s also a way of identifying the strengths in our community.

  1. Map the assets/gifts we bring to the community.
    For example, the task is to research five cultural artifacts in your neighbourhood. They can be stories, places and spaces. Consider the build environment, the history of the neighbourhood, key people, the myths that exist there, the places that are important, the buildings, transport, boundaries, the way people travel, where people gather and other factors considered in the lesson.
    Your task is to observe and analyze the culture of your neighbourhood as you go and visit these five places that are core to your community. And draw “map” the culture based on what you have learned in this lesson, as you reflect on the;
    . Now make some reflections about what you have learned about your neighbourhood through this exegesis. What stands out to you?
    In your journal, also write down the answer to the question: If you live here, how would embody and proclaim the gospel?

These two are really rathe simple exercise, but it can change our view towards our neighbour and understanding. I encourage you can exercise this in your free time, as I will do it to learn more about our local community.
Writer Eugene Peterson gives a great paraphrase of John 1:14. “… and the word became flesh and moved into neighbourhood.

Society has changed a great deal. People are more mobile than ever before and we live in an age of incredible opportunities for communication and connection. This is a time when it should be possible to feel increasingly that we belong to a community. There are many people in our neighbourhood who struggle with isolation and despair.
As churches and individuals we are in a unique position to help build stronger communities.
The role of church is not to rescue people from the world, but to be the church embedded in the world, helping to transform it. Historically, the church was local, taking place in neighbourhoods and in people’s homes.
Jesus was present, ministering to his neighbourhood.
Much of Jesus’ own mission was carried out in his local community, in people’s homes, in marketplaces and on the street. He met people in the midst of the most ordinary tasks: drawing water from the well, in their workplaces, over meals and at a family wedding.
We need to constantly attune ourselves to recognise God’s presence in the ordinariness of our neighbourhoods. The neighbourhood is holy ground and it is sacred. Encounter it with reverence and view it as holy.
Jon Humphries – prayer –
…Blessed are they when space is created for people to be in relationship
Blessed are they when room is made for love lived
Blessed are they when the busyness of life is pushed and people can meet to live out there faith in work for good
Blessed are they when the place is never as important as the purpose

Blessed are we when we are placemakers
Blessed we pray to be