Preserving the Community

Holbeck Working Men’s Club may close.

So I don’t live in Holbeck, or even Leeds, but I do listen to BBC Radio Leeds. A story this morning was that the club is to hold a family fun day in order to attract new members. They see their decline as being part of the decline of the community, which they are trying to preserve.

But life has changed from the 1960s when my Father was a member of a working men’s club in Mirfield. I can remember coach trips to Blackpool for the wives and children of the members, which was a very different kind of trip.

But I don’t think there is a problem with community declining, community is changing. Change is not necessarily a bad thing.

Back in the ’60s we could not talk to each other on mobile phones. Not only was mobile telephony a pipe dream which existed only in science fiction, but land lines were rare, I could not contact my school friends by phone as we were unusual in having a phone at home.

Now not only are phones more common, but they are smarter, they are not just about talking, but also about chatting by text, sharing pictures and videos, and accessing the internet. Plus there are laptops, and tablet computers: We are connected to people in a way that could not have been imagined 30 years ago.

The effect is not that society, and particularly community, is under attack, or is in decline, but it is changing. I have for the last ten years been part of on-line internet communities. People in different parts of the country, even other countries, who meet in real locations with those they would not know if it was not for the internet. I’ve even met people who have made transatlantic journeys to meet other members of an on-line community.

Community still exists, it’s just changing.

What Holbeck Working Men’s Club are doing seems desperate. Trying to hang on to a way of life that is declining.

Which is worrying, because it looks so familiar.

The Family Fun Day type of event looks so similar to what Churches do to attract new members. Trying to reach out to the sort of society that existed 30 years ago. People make fewer friends with those who live around them and more with people with a common interest. Look at the communities that have grown around on-line gaming.

So what is the church to do? I don’t know, I’m still at the stage of asking questions. But trying to reach out into the kind of community that is in decline does seem kind of desperate. 

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