Mission as Good Neighbour: social policy of the Methodist Mission Northern in the 21st century
Devanandan, B. Prince
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The Methodist Mission Northern has provided social services to the community since 1851. The underpinning philosophy of Methodist Mission Northern’s service provision is that of being a Good Neighbour. The concept of Good Neighbour derives from the Old and the New Testaments of the Holy Bible, the Hebrew Scriptures and also public policy. A defining moment in the emergence of Christian universalism comes when the neighbour is asserted to include everyone, … while the Levite and the Cohen pass by the injured man… the Good Samaritan comes to his aid and proves himself the true neighbour of his (injured) neighbour [Zizek, Santner, & Reinhard, 2005, p. 6]. What does Good Neighbour entail in the context of so many people suffering owing to poverty, injustice and social exclusion? This study set out to examine how the concept of Good Neighbour has been put into practice and how that is relevant in contemporary public policy setting. This research was undertaken using phenomenological enquiry approach which explored the experiences of the key stakeholders namely the Board of Governors, the staff and the clients or service recipients of the Methodist Mission Northern to understand the impact of service delivery on clients. This was done through a review of the Minutes of the Board Meetings and Annual Reports over a twenty year period from 1986 to 2006. The study found that for the greater part of the history the operation of the concept of Good Neighbour by Methodist Mission Northern tended to focus on the charity model which provides for the day to day needs of the clients such as providing food, clothing and shelter and other immediate needs. For Methodist Mission Northern’s concept of Good Neighbour to reflect its underpinning philosophy more effectively the practice needs to move beyond the charity model into a community development model focussed on social change and transformation. This means meeting the needs of clients in ways that empower them to move towards independence and interdependent self sustainability.