from fragmented isolation to neighborhood presence.
We are all too familiar with our hyper-mobile, technological, consumeristic, and individualistic culture and the ensuing fragmentation. Fragmentation of neighborhoods, families and communities that leaves so many of us today suffering from anxiety, depression and loneliness. But what is our response as the people of God? And how do we begin to imagine what it means to be faithfully present weaving a fabric of care in our places? [stolen from The New Parish] For this move from fragmented isolation to neighborhood presence is such an important shift. For how are we supposed to be love incarnate -- to reveal what God is like to our neighbors -- if we are not present?
This fall, there are going to be lots of opportunities for you to be present in your neighborhoods and communities. Whether that is a neighborhood dinner, a Muslim/Christian listening event, a social justice book club, a pub theology gathering or a 5K fun run, I encourage you to SHOW UP. Some of you have more bandwidth than others; and certainly, all of you have plenty of reasons why you don't have time, energy... yada yada yada ( I know I do!) But I want to encourage you, maybe even challenge you...to be present. In your neighborhood. At your local coffee shop. At the community forum. Your life will only be enriched.
I was talking with someone this week who shared how she was experiencing an increase in her quality of life -- the synergy and community that happens when you begin to run into folks everyday -- at the school pickup, the coffee shop, the grocery store and the local art show. It is an intangible gift until you experience it. The joy and beauty of belonging to a place, of feeling a sense of pride and ownership of the neighborhood, a feeling of being known and knowing others. This is the gift of presence in the neighborhood.
Of course, it will look different for each of us, depending on the unique contexts in which we live our lives, the demands of work and family and our passions and interests.
But no one is exempt.
You see, we don't get the privilege of talking without walking (it out).
Dear friends, do you think you'll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, "Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!" and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup -- where does that get you? Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? [James 2:14-17 The Message]
For our faith must be expressed in action. This is why we are The Practicing Church. And formation doesn't happen just on Sunday. It happens on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday. And so we don't get to talk about justice and healing and renewal in the world without somehow, even in very small ways, participating in this work.
So many of you are steeped in this healing work in the world as counselors, teachers, mental health workers and chaplains that you feel like there is nothing left when you get home. Others of you are beginning to experience the joy of neighborhood presence. Still others of you are not sure where to begin. And so if this idea of neighborhood presence feels daunting to you, start small. But do start.
Love your neighbor -- your actual neighbors. It is a tremendous gift that just keeps on giving.
Root in a particular place and allow God's dream to grow there.
Show up and be present. Learn the names and faces of your community. Listen deeply to their stories.
Open up your homes. Open up your hearts. Open up your lives.
This week, as I've heard beautiful stories of heartache and resilience that moved me to tears at a cultural community event, as I've thrown back my head and laughed with my Muslim neighbor, as I've participated in a community forum for my neighbors experiencing homelessness, as I've grieved with my neighbor experiencing a tragic loss and as I've made of fool of myself with the neighborhood kids at Turning Point, my life is so much bigger, fuller and richer. And I feel alive and connected to God's dream here.
For surely it is the work of the Spirit. All I have to do is show up.
by Jessica Ketola