Saturday, 1 September 2012

I Belong Therefore I Am, ....

To which communities do we belong? How do we define ourselves?
By nationality? Language? Accent? Gender? Sexuality? Age? Generation?  (Dis)ability? Faith? Religion? Denomination? Football team? Sports club? Church parish or congregation? Post-code? Taste in music? Fashion sense? Have we one or many identities, chaotically, sometimes contradictorily defined?
What stories do we tell (about ourselves, who we are, where we come from) that narrate our self-definition?

As a parish minister I belong to the Church of Scotland. Over the years, 8 or so other congregations have united to form the present day Lansdowne. The church now has c90 members, with around 30 meeting to worship on a Sunday. Does it exist as a congenial community for those members or to be something more?

To me, Lansdowne Parish Church is, well, 'Lansdowne Parish Church', a parish of the Church of Scotland covering north Woodlands, Lansdowne and Holyrood Crescents, Burnbank, the south end of Maryhill Road and over to Cedar Street and Braid Square.  Last I knew there were over 6000 people in the area. Whatever a person's faith, ethnicity etc, the parish church has certain duties and responsibilities to them. Is this ideal sustainable or even desirable in present day culture?

To many other people I meet, the building is known colloquially as 'The Lansdowne' (not to be confused with the Lansdowne Bar and Kitchen around the corner in the Crescent). 'The Lansdowne' is a place where all kinds of people in networks, social, recreational and more can meet and make use of the space - from exercise, dance, music and interest groups to social events and parties alongside provision for asylum seekers. Is there a Lansdowne identity or are there identities, a community or communities?

What does this observation say about belonging and how we define ourselves? What does it tell us about people's relationship to the church and its Christian identity? How does a church community rooted and grounded in the Christian story relate to the stories of the many fellow-travellers who come around? Hmm....

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