Neighborhood Fellowship

“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.

Gailyn Van Rheenen

Mission Alive

6 thoughts on “Neighborhood Fellowship

  1. Gailyn,
    I am so happy that the open house was so well received. Thank you for leading the way in connecting to your neighbors. You inspire me!

  2. Gailyn-after the “Holiday Open House” challenge you gave at Riverside Church, I committed to having one but kept putting it off until almost too late. On Sunday (this week) I decided to do it for Wednesday night. I realized I could combine the event with a project to make Christmas boxes for homeless folks which is coordinated by The Soup Mobile. I put out a flier in my complex and the response was wonderful (with only 2 days notice!). My neighbors all pitched in and we made 24 boxes on the night of the event. Many people had other plans for the evening, but still brought by donations. A good number of people came by and had some holiday snacks with me including all the people from the units in my stairwell. This is the first time we’ve all been together! God brought all this together in such a sweet way. Thanks for the challenge!!

    • This is a wonderful story, Holly. I like your idea of putting together a service project and a community gathering. I wonder if suburban people in our area of Carrollton would have come if they knew that we would also be duirng a service project. Do I lack faith? Perhaps they would have also been enthralled by the project like people in your complex where. What do you think? You are an inspiration to all of us!!


  3. Gailyn, when we first moved to Williamsburg, I asked Alison to bake a couple of her “specialty” pies for our two next-door neighbors for Christmas. Neither one of us could have imagined what kind of relationships would come into our lives from a simple pie. One neighbor is a single mom of two teens, and the other a large family of six spanning three generations, from New Jersey. From time to time we would take over baked goodies or meals during difficult times. We thought that a single mom would appreciate it given her difficult situation and long hours. As for our neighbors from New Jersey, well, lets just say we quickly learned that they love to eat! Over the course of a few months these neighbors have become our precious friends. Our relationship with the single mom and her kids have led to us keeping the kids for a week while she worked out of town, to offering solicited advice when her oldest found herself in serious trouble. Through all of this, they have even gathered with us and the church. Now, we often talk about faith and life, and how they intersect. This Christmas they overwhelmed us with gifts just to say “thank you.” This has left us humbled. We pray they will come to know Life as we share in life together.

    As for the other neighbor, a beautiful friendship has blossomed. We have shared dinners a few times, taken a fishing trips, and worked on our lawns together. Now I have the pleasure of meeting with Bob, a 62 year old retiree and patriarch, for coffee every two weeks. When he recently had surgery he made me promise that I would be there. In the hospital he called me his “minister,” and he has never stepped foot into a church gathering! This is the same man who when we first grabbed coffee together, told me that he would never become a christian. His experience growing up in the southside of New Jersey just didn’t lead to positive religious encounters. When I first shared the Gospel with Bob, I wished you could’ve seen his response as he heard it for the first time. Now, upon his request, he has asked that I share my sermon with him each week. He doesn’t feel comfortable in “church” but he is compelled by the story. This family of 6 have become our friends. For Christmas they too showered us with gifts, especially Ian. It was incredible.

    To say that we have learned a lot through all of this would be a gross understatement. Our deepest hope is that they will know the One who knows them best and loves them most, and that we will share in the great banquet feast together.

  4. Hey Gailyn thanks for sharing. The River City Christian Community also hosted a Christmas open house for all our neighbors and we ended up with around 22 neighbors in attendance. It was great to see our neighbors come to our house and share some stories about our neighborhoods past.

    As a result of a conversation Micah Lewis had with one of our neighbors this neighbor and her daughter attended our house church gathering last weekend.

    It’s amazing what happens when we open our house and reach out to the people living next to us.

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