I have felt encouraged by the ingenuity and resilience of the parkrun community in finding new ways to keep its members feeling “connected” and motivated during the parkrun pause. There have been various parkrun HQ initiatives like the great big parkrun quiz every Saturday morning, and more recently the notparkrun results tables. On the local front, parkrun core teams have been coming up with entertaining ways to keep us in touch with each other, for example weekly selfie running challenges and (not) parkrun reports.
And something else which has come into sharper focus since the lockdown started, is how similar, from my point of view at any rate, are the community cohesion aspects of a parkrun event to that of another community which I am a member of : church. I offer these observations, not to equate parkrun with church or vice versa but to muse on what it is that “makes us tick” as people.
|parkrun community||church community|
|Main event takes place||Every Saturday||Every Sunday|
being a parkrun family
|Singing, praying, listening to the Bible together:|
being a church family
|Is a place which is||Open to all – no prequalification required. Family friendly.||Open to all – no prequalification required. Family friendly.|
|Receiving instruction||Listening to the run director’s briefing before the run, so that we watch out for our own safety and well-being, and also that of fellow park-runners and, equally importantly, respecting the space of other users of the parkrun location||Listening to the sermon, considering the right way to think, speak and act in accordance with our faith, for the benefit of our church family and, equally importantly, of wider society.|
|Sharing community||Celebrating parkrun milestones as they occur, welcoming parkrun tourists, asking for volunteers for forthcoming weeks, announcing special parkrun events coming up||General welcome to visitors, announcing special events being organised, mentioning people for prayer, listening to members’ individual accounts of their life experience and how that has related to their faith…asking for volunteers.|
|Pastoral care||Every (park)runner matters… |
We “assemble” to be kind to one another, with a smile, shout of encouragement/high five etc; to inspire one another to be the best that we can be, both physically and spiritually (well-being)
|Every life matters… |
We “assemble” to be kind to one another: to share a smile, inspire and encourage each other; to live (with God’s help) a life pleasing to God and to be a signpost to others who have not experienced His love and grace which is intended for all
|Socialising||Participants meet for a coffee and chat afterwards (sometimes there is cake)||Participants meet for a coffee and chat afterwards (sometimes there is cake)|
|Volunteers||Parkrun would not happen without the active participation of members volunteering to look after various aspects of event set up, event delivery, and event pack up.||Some functions are fulfilled by paid staff (e.g. Pastor, Administrator), but meetings could not function unless members of the church family volunteer to look after essential roles both during the meetings and behind the scenes.|
I admit that the above sample size of two communities is statistically unrepresentative in order to reach a proper conclusion but, consider other organisations which you are a member of and see if anything in the table above has any resonance.
I conclude that people are meant to be “in community” with one another. That is how we best cope in a crisis, as these past few months has taught us. It is also how we are meant to be, even when there is no existential threat looming on the horizon, so that we can each attain our personal potential and by so doing play our part in society.