Anna Ruddick, a Community Engagement Associate at Livability, has been researching how transformation in local communities happens. In this blog piece she reflects on what she has learnt so far.
Transformation is about changing the way we see the world. As we see in Romans 12:1-2 it’s about changing our minds.
We believe that God brings transformation and many of us can testify to his transforming work in our own lives. But I’m a curious person, I want to know more about how God works. So I’ve been researching the idea of transformation, and especially how it happens in local communities. Most of us can think of situations or things in our own lives, and probably the lives of people around us that we would love to see transformed. Things we pray for regularly and hope will be changed.
Through my research I’ve learned that transformation is about changing the way we see the world, changing our minds. But I’ve also learnt that it usually doesn’t happen just by sitting on our own, thinking. It happens in daily actions and relationships with other people.
I’ve learnt that there are two things that need to happen for us to be transformed:
ONE our perspective needs to be challenged. – Hearing something completely new, being taken aback, surprised or even shocked by someone’s behaviour or something you see or hear can make you question the way you think and see the world.
TWO we need to know that we are loved and accepted as we are. – It can be scary to have your thinking challenged. If we feel that we’re totally wrong about everything we feel bad and we usually just hide to protect ourselves, we often don’t change our minds, we just feel worse about ourselves. If we know and experience love and acceptance as we are then it builds our confidence to see that we’re not all bad, we just aren’t thinking straight in this one area. This gives us the courage to try something new, to change our minds, because we know that whatever happens we are accepted and loved as we are.
When these two things come together we can change our minds. To give an example: One woman that I interviewed, I call her Hannah, talked about how when she moved to a council estate to join an outreach team with the local church she expected it to be really difficult, to experience vandalism and anti-social behaviour. She had a negative view of council estates. But when I interviewed her she described how through getting to know people in the community and making friends, being welcomed by the community she changed her mind and now really loves where she lives. She acknowledges that there are some challenges in the community but she knows first-hand that there are lots of really good people, that it’s a great place to live.
In Hannah’s story, her perspective was challenged by the people she met and her experience of living on a council estate which was not as bad as she expected. Alongside that she received a warm welcome from her new neighbours and felt accepted and loved by them and by her other friends and family. This enabled her to change her mind about council estates.
Challenging perspective and knowing that we’re loved happen through our relationships and life experiences so transformation is something which happens to us all together as a community as we share life together, sharing our differences and loving and accepting each other.
Anna Ruddick, March 2016.
Anna’s own experience and recent research have both contributed to her work on the recent reports and resources (both jointly published with the Church Urban Fund) which explore different methods for community engagement Fullness of Life Together – Reimagining Christian Community Engagement and Building Kingdom Communities.