I was not exactly eager to spend an entire Saturday at another seminar. Especially since 4 out of the next 5 Saturdays were already being claimed by other church commitments. “What’s the point of a seminar on “life in the neighborhood” when I’m hardly at home in my neighbourhood anyway?” I wondered. I need to be at home more just to do the dishes and get the laundry done.
Still, I had signed up for a Forge neighbourhood engagement seminar, so off I went to join a number of other members from my church and a room full of other interested folks. I listened to the excellent presentation by Karen Wilk, an Edmonton pastor and Forge National Team Member. I watched the videos. I worked through the case study. I read the packet of material. I shared with the people at my table.
Some of what I heard challenged me:
What does it mean to love my neighbour–not just in general, but in concrete and specific ways?
How might neighbours move from being strangers to acquaintances to having authentic relationship?
Some things raised questions for me:
Is loving neighbour really equated with loving God as some of the resource material seemed to suggest?
Is neighbour interpreted too narrowly and literally to apply only to the person next door?
Doesn’t Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan broaden the definition of neighbour?
What about the people we work with or go to school with?
Isn’t my online community part of my neighbourhood?
Why is this–and apparently every other model of mission I know–more suited to extroverts and adding yet another layer of guilt on introverts?
As you can tell, that Saturday seminar got me thinking! At the end of the day, Karen encouraged us to take action related to life in the neighbourhood, so I decided:
(1) To re-think my schedule and clear one of my upcoming Saturdays – without more margin in my life to take care of my own household, “life in the neighbourhood” just doesn’t make any sense;
(2) To be deliberate about connecting with a new neighbour – at this rain-soaked time of year, it’s all too easy for me to drive in and out of our garage without talking to our neighbours or even seeing them, but I could change that by walking to pick up our mail or getting together for coffee;
(3) To reflect more on neighbouring in the context of technology – isn’t my Facebook or Twitter friend also my neighbour? Is a virtual community a real community? How does technology shape and re-shape my understanding of my neighbour, and is that a good thing or something to guard against? These and other techie/nerdy questions weren’t addressed at the seminar, but based on the not-quite-three-years that I’ve been active on social media, these are important questions for me.
Your turn: What about life in your neighbourhood? Are your neighbours strangers, acquaintances, or a regular part of your life? In what way are you and I online neighbours even if we don’t actually live next door to one another?