Community development in the Baviaans municipality area : a challenge to a practical theology ecclesiology

Jacobus, Denzil Edward (2013-03)

Thesis (DTh)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Talking about community development is not an easy task because it is a broad term employed by academics, civic leaders, governments, concerned citizens, faith-based organisations and simply people with an interest in the well-being of others. Each of these groups may have their own interpretation of what they perceive community development to be. Currently many new voices speak out in favour of the upliftment of the marginalised, the periphery segment of the population. In government circles, we see an array of community development initiatives (of which integrated development planning is but one), aimed at empowering individuals to effect change in their own communities. The underlying principle is that within any community there is a wealth of knowledge and experience which, if used creatively, can be channelled into collective action to achieve the desired goals to benefit the community. Unfortunately, the majority of people who belong to the poorer segment of the population are still unable to access the full potential of these initiatives. Poverty and its many faces are still rampant, and the people feeling it most acutely are those living in “small towns”. The first part of this study attempts to address community development in one such small town; the Baviaans Municipal Area. It seeks to “give voice” to the people, in order for them to take charge of their own development as Chapter 4 attempts to show. The study also allows “small town” communities to break through the academic rhetoric of poverty to voice their own understanding of this social ill (Chapter 3). In this chapter ordinary people “unlearn to not speak”. The second segment of this dissertation builds on the empirical findings of the first segment by exploring how community development challenges the church to be church. It acknowledges the fact that the church has a long history as a pioneer in social involvement; and that the church, unlike any other “civil institution”, enjoys credibility and trust from the majority of people on the globe. This assumption strengthens the hypothesis that the church can be a reliable, worthy and valued catalyst for community development within the social development paradigm. This dissertation consciously avoids the naivety of ignoring the challenges that accompany this premise. Whilst Chapter 5 acknowledges the ceaseless involvement of the church in the development domain, Chapter 6 unpacks the theological impact of these challenges on the practical daily life and essence of the church. It seeks to demonstrate theologically what it means to be church in our day and age. Against the background of the preceding chapters, and mindful of the fact that no study can claim absolutism, Chapter 7 concludes this study by making some practical suggestions and recommendations that could be helpful for local government, the church and those with an interest in community development.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Dit is nie maklik om oor gemeenskapsontwikkeling te praat nie want dit is ‘n wye term wat gebruik word deur akademici, gemeenskapsleiers, besorgde landsburgers, godsdiensgroepe, en ook deur mense wat bloot belang stel in die welsyn van hul medemens. Al hierdie groepe het moontlik hul eie persepsie van wat gemeenskapsontwikkeling is of behoort te wees. Tans is daar baie nuwe stemme wat hul uitspreek ten gunste van die opheffing van die gemarginaliseerde mense op die grense van die samelewing. Uit regeringskringe kom daar ‘n rits van inisiatiewe (waarvan geïntegreerde ontwikkeling slegs een is) wat gemeenskapsontwikkeling ten doel het en inividue wil bemagtig ten einde verandering in hulle gemeenskap te bewerkstellig. Die onderliggende prinsiep is dat daar in elke gemeenskap ‘n skat van kennis en ondervinding is wat, indien dit op ‘n kreatiewe wyse aangewend word, gekanaliseer kan word in kollektiewe aksie ten einde die gewenste doel te kan bereik: om tot voordeel van die gemeenskap te wees. Ongelukkig het die meerderheid van die mense wat tot die armer segment van die bevolking behoort nog steeds nie toegang tot die volle potensiaal van hierdie inisiatiewe nie. Armoede in al sy gestaltes is nog steeds wydverspreid, en die mense wat dit die ergste ondervind, is diegene wat in “klein dorpe” woon. Die eerste deel van hierdie studie probeer om gemeenskapsontwikkeling in so ‘n dorpsomgewing, die Baviaans Munisipale Gebied aan te spreek. Dit poog om die mense se “stem” te laat hoor, ten einde dit vir hulle moontlik te maak om in beheer te wees van hulle eie ontwikkeling. Dit word in Hoofstuk 4 geïllustreer. Die studie gee ook ‘n geleentheid aan mense in klein dorpies om die akademiese retoriek rondom armoede te verbreek en hulle stemme te laat hoor betreffende hierdie sosiale euwel (Hoofstuk 3). In hierdie hoofstuk leer gewone mense om “op te hou om nie te praat nie”. Die tweede segment van hierdie verhandeling bou voort op die empiriese bevindinge van die eerste segment, deur na te speur hoe gemeenskapsontwikkeling die kerk uitgedaag het om kerk te wees. Dit gee erkenning aan die feit dat die kerk ‘n lang geskiedenis as pionier in sosiale betrokkenheid het, asook die feit dat die kerk, anders as sommige ander gemeenskaps-instellings, geloofwaardigheid en vertroue geniet in die oë van die meerderheid van mense . Hierdie aanvaarding versterk die hipotese dat die kerk ‘n betroubare, waardige en waardevolle katalis vir gemeenskapsontwikkeling binne die sosiale ontwikkelingsparadigma kan wees. Dit sou naief wees om die uitdagings wat deel van die premis (uitgangspunt) is, te ignoreer, en hierdie verhandeling vermy dit doelbewus. Hoofstuk 5 gee erkenning aan die onophoudelike betrokkenheid van die kerk in die ontwikkelingsdomein. Hoofstuk 6 verwys na die teologiese impak van hierdie uitdagings op die praktiese daaglikse lewe en essensie van die kerk. Dit poog om in teologiese terme te wys wat dit deesdae beteken om kerk te wees. Teen die agtergrond van die voorafgaande hoofstukke, en bewus van die feit dat geen studie op absolutisme aanspraak kan maak nie, word hierdie studie afgesluit deur Hoofstuk 7, met ‘n paar praktiese voorstelle en aanbevelings betreffende wat van nut mag wees vir plaaslike regering, die kerk, en almal vir wie gemeenskapsontwikkeling belangrik is.

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