This morning on ABC radio, there was a very interesting program about a town in country Victoria – a town that has been dying. It’s a serious situation faced by many country towns.
In the early seventies, I was teaching at Gladstone High School in country South Australia. One of the big concerns in that community was that most of the kids would eventually leave town to go to the city – to get an education, or for jobs, or all kinds of other reasons. It means the town shrinks and gets left with older people who can’t sustain the kinds of activities they used to do. The younger people with the energy just aren’t there to carry on.
This town in country Victoria has been facing that issue.
Renewal began with a change of mind. They decided they couldn’t wait to rely on Government to solve their problems. They needed to take matters into their own hands. And that’s what they’ve done. They began by collectively accepting responsibility for their own future.
It didn’t mean doing everything themselves. When they’d talked it through, they won a government grant and got the help of an outside consultant from a university – someone who could relate to their situation and had wide, relevant, practical experience supported by academic research. The value of the outsider.
It’s an important story because it represents a widespread problem we see in many well-established communities – whether towns, well-established service clubs and so on.
Recently I had that kind of conversation with a couple of people concerned about declining numbers in church. Their question was, ‘how do we get younger people to come to church?’ I get their sense of desperation. But I think it is the wrong question.
The other day, my daughter-in-law shared with me an Instagram post from a church near them in Hackney in London. She had appreciated using their childcare, particularly being herself confined to a little flat with a ‘COVID-baby’.
COVID challenged this church to change their idea of who they were and what they should be about. The pressing needs in the community demanded a response – so they did – but not without calling for help from the community themselves.
Here is the post:
For musing: What needs to happen for any community to adapt to cultural change?