So it turns out that St. Albert is the fourth best place to live in the whole of Canada, and the very best place to live in any province outside of Ontario (we were beaten by Ottawa, Burlington and Oakville).
One of the criteria the judges use when det
ermining their rankings is the crime rate. According to their numbers St. Albert’s crime rate has dropped by more than 45% in the last five years.
At one level that drop is unsurprising because of the corresponding rise in the number of block parties.
Two weeks ago I was at a conference called “Deepening Community,” and it brought together the leading thinkers and community development practitioners from around North America. I found the conference stimulating and through provoking, but I also found it extremely affirming.
I feel confident in saying that St. Albert has one of the highest per-capita engagement with block parties in North America and probably the world.
John McKnight is one of the pioneers of community development in North America, and in his book The Abundant Community which was co-written Peter Block, McKnight asserts that:
A safe street is produced by eyes on the street. It is produced by people walking around, sitting outside, knowing neighbours, and being part of a social fabric. No number of gates or professional security people on patrol can make us safe.
Our block parties produce relationships, and relationships produce safety.
Not only does neighbourhood connection reduce crime, but it improves our health, improves the economy and improves our overall happiness. No wonder we are one of the best places to live in the country.
Our sense of community, however, will be tested in the coming years as more and more people from different backgrounds find a home in our beautiful city.
A few weeks ago I was visiting a coffee shop with some friends from Syria. It was clear from the way my friends dressed and also from the way they spoke that they were not from Canada. The majority of people were polite and friendly, however a few were clearly uncomfortable and one lady in particular started yelling at them about their need to act more like Canadians. It was a sad and embarrassing moment.
John McKnight said:
“The clearest way of ensuring someone will be a stranger is to give them a label and then think about them as a generality rather than a person.”
One of the most famous of Jesus’ stories (the story of the Good Samaritan) was about people of one ethnicity realizing that people of the ethnicity that most bothered them, were actually their neighbours who they needed to care for.
In St. Albert we are on a journey to love our neighbours (check out goodneighbourproject.org).
Increasingly we are going to discover that our neighbours may not look or sound like us… and that has to be ok.
Lets make sure St. Albert continues to be one of the best places to live… for everyone.
Pastor Matt Garvin
St. Albert Alliance Church