Saturday, January 06, 2007

post offices

There was an announcement towards the end of the last year that the Government wanted to close about 1/5 of the 14000 Post Offices. Given the estimates that a profitable Post Office would mean shutting 11,000 of them, I supposed we should be thankful for small mercies. However, thousands of communities will be left without easy access to a Post Office, and the target for rural communities is to have one within 6 miles of 95% of residents. Not exactly convenient, if you don't have a car, or can't drive, or have just 1 bus a week.

There are, if you search the Post Office website, 15 post offices in Yeovil and the surrounding villages, or Yeovil Deanery if you're an Anglican. On the law of averages we'll lose 3 of those.

There's a consultation in process (go to the DTI website and search for 'post office') until March, and the cuts will start this summer.

Alongside the cuts, the goverment also wants 500 new 'Outreach' post offices - mobile ones, or based in village halls, pubs or other local venues. A number of churches already host a local Post Office. Back in medieval times, before the invention of pews, the main body of the church was an open space, and was often used for markets, public gatherings etc., as it was the only public building in the community. Now the pub and the post office are just as much community meeting places as the church used to be. Wouldn't it be great to bring them back together?

Some of the 'emerging church' writers talk of finding 'proximity space' - a neutral place where Christians and non-Christians can meet around a common goal or community activity. The evaporation of such spaces has meant that our outreach looks more like a smash and grab raid from behind the fortifications of the church into a barbarian world. If the local church could save the local post office, then maybe its other talk about salvation would sound more convincing.

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