• Carol Barron

Connections & Connexion

This article was first published in Touchstone in October 2021.

Social connection is a fundamental human need. We are hard wired to be social and interact with each other, to live in families/whānau and communities that interact with each other. As Brene Brown[1] puts it,

“A deep sense of love and belonging is an irresistible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don't function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.”

That feeling of social connectedness, of belonging, of acceptance, of love, of inclusion has never felt so essential for us than during lockdown when we have restrictions on how we can safely interact with others. And that is why we find lockdown so hard.

It is our strong supportive social connections that sustain and improve our quality of life, boosts our mental health, and contributes to our wellbeing. Being understood, accepted and connected to others is so important that it is a significant health determinant. People in relationships of high trust share resources and look after each other. People with strong friendships and social supports increasingly report feelings of belonging, purpose, happiness, reduced levels of stress, improved self-worth and confidence. And of course the opposite is true – people with insufficient perceived social support are the most likely to suffer mental health disorders including anxiety and depression. Some research has also shown that social connections help us to live longer. Research has also shown that people of faith live significantly longer too – so if it’s a long life what you’re after, going to church may be the answer to your prayers.

Connexionalism is at the heart of being Methodist and all Methodist organisations. It is fundamental to how we understand the Church and how we relate to each other. The essence of being connexional is the sense of belonging, mutuality and interdependence. It is acknowledging that we are stronger and better when we are connected in a real way – sharing our knowledge, experience, skills, resources, and supporting each other to be the best we can be. Our connexionalism is our greatest strength. It takes away many barriers other churches have when trying to respond collectively to a national issue. Our connexionalism gives us an advantage, as we are all in the same waka together – he waka eke noa. Our structure makes us nimble and agile so we can respond quickly to need and demand in our society, when we all work together.

One of Weteriana’s social principles is, “to work for justice for any who are oppressed in Aotearoa New Zealand, keeping in mind the implications of the Treaty of Waitangi. To share resources with the poor and disadvantaged in Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond.” This is our connexionalism and our social connectedness in action.

This principle is our call to action, much like the late Rev Ruawai Rakena’s message to Conference in 1975 of “Kāore mā te waha engari mā te ringa – don’t tell me, show me” provides a framework for how our members work. Rev Rakena said, “Far more often than not we have remained content merely to tell people we care, or that God cares for them, rather than getting down to the business of really showing them we care, and that in and through us, God cares too. To tell people they matter is one thing; to actually show them they do is quite another and, of course, far more in keeping with Gospel living.”

All our Missions grew out of small Parishes that were working for justice for the oppressed and sharing their resources with the poor and disadvantaged. Our Connexionalism means that we are ALL charged to do this. As Methodists, as Weteriana, we have a responsibility to show the poor, the disadvantaged, the oppressed, the marginalised, the excluded, that we care and that we are taking positive action to make their life better.

As Methodists we have social justice in our DNA, we are generous and know how to share our resources. We are working collectively and ecumenically. We know we are living in times of great change where the housing crisis means that our most vulnerable people are living in unsafe environments. We are building intentional communities and supporting them to thrive by using our land, our skills, and our experience to care for them.

Our connectedness and connexionalism gives us the courage to get out of our comfort zone and to take action – as we can achieve great things together. This is when great things can happen and how we show others we care. We all have a part to play in responding to the housing crisis and the most vulnerable in our communities. Feel free to contact me to find out how you can join in this action.

Carol Barron, National Coordinator

03 375 0512 | 027 561 9164 |

[1] Brené Brown, Research Professor at University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.

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