“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”
(John 1:14 The Message)
This morning Becky prayed, “We thank you for all of our guests who came and blessed our home last night.” We were indeed blessed!! Twenty-four folks from 8 families came from our cul-de-sac and the houses behind our home. A great time of neighborhood connection! Melanie, a vivacious lady of Cambodian heritage, was the first to come and the last to leave. She has lived on our cul-de-sac for 14 years without knowing any of her neighbors. We had simply left a flyer about our “Holiday Open House” at her home and she in turn called and began a conversation with Becky. In one evening she developed friends, hopefully life-long, life-changing relationships.
Kim and Paul came with their two daughters. We heard about their dating; their marriage; their work; and their connection with Travis and Tammie, our next-door neighbors. Kim, who works in HR with a local company, remembered a person of the old Meadow Ridge home owners association who used to do large community gatherings. Many mentioned our need for further connection.
I also noticed Becky’s gift of hospitality—her joy in preparing for the evening and then being with all of those who gathered.
Many years ago linguistic consultant William Smalley of the American Bible Society coined the phrase “living in proximity without neighborliness” to describe many in the Western world. He said, “In our highly complex society we have built cultural devices for keeping people close by from being neighbors unless for some reason we choose to include them. These barriers provide a protection for us, keep us from having to associate with people who are not compatible, whose race or education, or social status is different from ours. We can withdraw within the barriers for security from people and social patterns which conflict with our own” (“Proximity or Neighborliness?” in Readings in Missionary Anthropology, p. 302).
Randy Frazee in The Connecting Church says that the church must redeem impersonal suburban communities by multiplying simple intergenerational, geographical home fellowships for the purpose of both incarnational evangelism and spiritually forming people into the image of God. This is easier said than done given the cultural scenario so graphically depicted by Smalley. But the hunger for connection that we experienced illustrates that within each of us is an innate desire to connect heart-to-heart, soul-to-soul. We are created to live in relationship.