24 January 2013
"What does regeneration mean to you?"
That is the headline of a Scottish Parliament inquiry launched this week by the Local Government and Regeneration committee as they seek to consider how best to regenerate Scotland. It is one of a number of inquiries launched at this time of year, all of which give the church in Scotland an opportunity to speak into the life of our nation.
Some people may pause at this point to ask of the relevance of a topic like regeneration to the local church.Shouldn't we be concentrating our efforts on more important issues like personal or family ethics or religious liberty concerns? Yet the truth is that our gospel and outreach must be a holistic one encompassing all aspects of individual, family and community life, and seeing God's power (and the church's witness) work to transform all aspects of our society including our social, environmental and community concerns.
The Christian understanding of regeneration is therefore much more radical than our modern worldly understanding – speaking as it does of complete and holistic transformation, brought about by God, of individual lives and communities. This is a much broader vision than those that seek to remedy social problems by simply putting up a few buildings and hoping for the best.
So how then are we to play our part in this aspect of God's Kingdom work and to ensure that society's aspirations for regeneration lead to the one who can truly regenerate? Well, the truth is that the church is already doing a huge amount.
Across so many communities in Scotland (and often those most in need of regeneration) the church is commonly the only community building in the area. More than that it is often the only living community organisation in the area. It is the church that provides the location and the people for the food bank, the youth club, the English class, the family support, the asylum support network and the visiting of older people in the community. Last weekend in Scotland saw the Deep Impact conference in Aviemore with over 350 Scottish Christian Youth Workers gathering, who between them put in thousands of hours every year investing in communities across the nation. We are well placed to comment on how our communities can benefit from long term regeneration.
There are also increasing opportunities for this to be so. The coming years will bring further reductions in government provision in welfare and local authority services and the Church in Scotland has perhaps the best opportunity in a generation to serve our communities, supporting the most vulnerable and working with government and other organisations to bring true regeneration to communities across the land.
What then do we want to say about how best to regenerate our communities? What does the Scottish Parliament need to hear from the church in Scotland on this issue, at this time? The deadline for submissions is Friday 15 March and we hope many churches will respond. As always further information can be found by contacting Kieran Turner at the EA Scotland Office or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org