Why is it if you’re under 40 you tend to be more migratory than previous generations? Perhaps it’s a response to globalization, perhaps it’s a response to our inability to remain content when we stay in one place too long. There exists a conundrum with community. We all crave to belong to something, to have place, be it church or book club, to share with close friends. However, sometimes our actions defy our wants. A kind of cognitive dissonance develops when on one hand we want more community, yet on the other hand we don’t digest the time needed to make it happen.
There was a time in Calgary when you didn’t need a car to get everywhere and we weren’t a commuter city because people were more entrenched in the locality of their neighborhoods. Churches acted as the community centres, the corner store thrived. I remember my Grandma who lived in Southwood. She’d walk a block and a half to the United Church. The city went from small to big (not unfortunate, just a reality) and experienced unmitigated urban sprawl. Unfortunately, churches also changed from neighborhood church to closed cathedral. Most, regardless of what they said, became bastions designed to protect church traditions and not open beacons to the community.
I wonder if we can recapture the good bits in grandmas church?
Matthew 28:18-20 is called the ‘Great Commission’ as Jesus offers some parting final words to his disciples to ‘go’ into all the corners of earth and make disciples.
What would it look like if ‘go’ actually meant ‘stay’? I don’t mean stay at home, but rather, stay in your neighborhood and stay with your community? And I mean stay for a decade, not a year or two.
What if a key component to great community is proximity and time? The belief that it’s easier to develop and connect when you live closer to each other–when you’re around long enough to let relationships deepen.
By re-emphasizing neighborhood our church is slowing developing a theology of place for the local parish.
Simply being together is hard when you can’t even drive 10 minutes to someone you know. It’s also difficult to capture if you’re always moving or thinking of moving (it prevents putting down roots which ultimately means investing in people becomes a bit harder.)
It doesn’t matter where you are, be it suburbs, inner-city, downtown, when you live near your church (the people not the building) your proximity increases your availability to be together.
From there a church gathered works to preview the Kingdom in the neighborhood. What that means in its most simplest of forms: to love one another and turn the wrongs right.
Being a part of that is a good reason to ‘stay’.