Our neighbourhood in southeast London has become a friendlier place. The introduction of street parties nearly 6 years ago has played a large part in it. Older folk love the all age get-togethers because it reminds them that they still belong. Children enjoy the novelty of a party with games and activities on their road. Most teenagers don’t want to miss the family fun. New families find a platform where they can meet others.
There was a time when most people didn’t venture too far from home. They worked and shopped locally and not only knew everyone in their street but they helped one another out. These days, whether we live in a house or a flat, it’s possible we won’t know the people living right next door.
The world has changed. We work longer, travel further and communicate differently. Our lives are often so busy we have little contact with the people who live closest to us. This is especially true in big cities, where people come and go at different times and new neighbours move in and out. Modern technology means we could be more connected to people who live on the other side of the world.
Life for families has changed, too. With the attractions of the Internet, computer games and videos, the rise of after school care and tuition, children are less likely to play outside. Parents’ views on child safety have also impacted how and where children play. The neighbourhood is no longer deemed a safe playground or an extension of the family home.
What has gone missing from society is “Social Capital”. It’s the glue that holds communities together and measures the level of trust and goodwill.
One telling study showed that lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.
People who have regular contact with their neighbours show:
• Greater immunity to infection
• Lower risk of heart disease
• Reduced mental decline, as they age.
Knowing people in our local area can have a significant impact on how secure and happy we feel about where we live. Jesus says we are to love our neighbour as ourselves.
A Street Party puts into practice this command and is a natural way to help build Social Capital. It takes time to develop relationships but as bridges build between us, we experience a taste of what God's Kingdom is like. As we intentionally facilitate bringing our street together we help the neighbourhood become a friendlier place and a more caring and trusting community. One where people feel they belong because they are known by name, valued and accepted.
By providing a simple framework, a bridge is built from our heart to our neighbours and Jesus has further opportunity to walk across.