In January 2011 The Weekend Australian reported that Adelaide is Australia’s most liveable city. A poll of more than 4,000 city-dwelling Australians, conducted by the Property Council, was based on seventeen liveability measures, such as safety, public transport, cultural entertainment, quality of schooling, attractiveness of the natural environment and affordability of housing.
Popular discussion about the qualities of city life and community well-being is often based on indices of economic growth, political performance, cultural attractiveness and environmental measures. Debates and public conversation about these qualities are sometimes generated by those with vested interests and assume that these measurements are an answer to the perennial question, what makes a good city?
While affirming these physical or environmental criteria I would claim that there are other qualities that make cities good places to live and work. Some of these qualities are not so evident but they are no less important. These inherent or deeply embedded cultural qualities and values are sometimes called social or faithful capital. These qualities include the capacity to work together for the good of the whole, developing cooperation and collaboration for the benefit of all, growing an underlying sense of mutual obligation, respect for diversity and opportunities for citizens with diverse gifts and skills to engage in public life.
In their 2009 book, What Makes A Good City? Public Theology and the Urban Church, Elaine Graham and Stephen Lowe suggest that, “a vibrant civil society is the bed rock of a healthy democracy because participation in civil society fosters social bonds, enhances civic skills and inspires altruistic values” (page 117).
In the few weeks I have been sharing with Scots Church in ministry I have been reminded again and again of the North Terrace groups, organisations and institutions that express these qualities and contribute to a rich cultural and educational life. Many of these valued resources were founded by voluntary effort, civic pride and the commitment of our city founders.
Adelaide has indeed a grand and yet understated boulevard representing the values and qualities that enrich and enhance people’s lives through the arts, drama, public conversation and opportunities for citizens to meet and discuss important issues of the day. The North Terrace - Rundle Mall precinct also attracts visitors and strangers find a welcome and generous hospitality.
The ministry of Scots Church and its place in the city are greatly enhanced by its location, its public presence, its visibility and the long term commitment and generous hospitality of its members. We have been on the street since 1851! In looking outwards, in being a church of the open door, by engaging with others and discovering new opportunities for collaboration and cooperation with other North Terrace partners we will discover a growing edge to our ministry. The gospel values we exhibit and demonstrate are often qualities shared in common with others who also have a vision for the city. Developing a sense of community belonging is life-giving and a city’s liveability develops when we welcome the stranger and foster social bonds in the context of a diverse and pluralist society. The conversations, links and common causes we share with others may seem small steps but they help us find the way into the future that God has for us.
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