May I share an overview of my neighborhood and what has been unfolding since we moved here last June? I had just started the 18th annotation when we moved from the Boston area to Thomasville, NC. The house into which we moved is bigger than any house we have ever owned and it has a pool, which is way fancier than anything we ever anticipated owning! At first I felt guilty that we had such nice things. Both my husband and I grew up lower-middle class and were not used to such “perks”. However, as I moved through the 18th annotation I was struck by the idea that, “Everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God… I want and choose what better leads to God’s deepening life in me.” (O’Brien) The 18th annotation culminated with a sense that it is not outside my circle to which I am called; it’s all right here. On 7/30/22 I journaled:
“I have an opportunity right here, in this house, in this neighborhood, in this community…. to follow Jesus, to parent my kids as I walk it out, to submerge myself in the waters of His grace, to invite others into these waters. It is not outside my circle to which I am called; it’s all right here – on my front porch, in my pool, in my backyard, around my fire pit, in my gardens. I can feed, nourish and cultivate growth from this very place. Space and grace is all right here.”
We attend a small Vineyard church in Greensboro (Gate City Vineyard) and our friends there are an important part of our community. However, we have to drive 40 minutes to get to church, which we usually do once/week for the Sunday morning service. In contrast, every afternoon I have 4-10 kids hanging out in our cul-de-sac and on our property after school. Because of this, I am keenly aware of all the ways we “do church” every day, right here in our own backyard.
“Church” happens around our pool during the hot summer months.
It happens when the kids my neighbor cares for out of her home come over and play with my kids just about every weekday. And it happens every Tuesday/Thursday when I walk my little girl across the street to be cared for by “Mimi and Poppy”.
It happens on our trampoline.
Church takes place in the reclaimed and rebuilt factory buildings of our town, once a thriving blue-collar community and home to “Thomasville Furniture factory” (before everything was outsourced to China). Now many of those buildings are vacant and falling apart. But people like Blythe Leonard (Maker’s Market) and Dustie Gregson (The Table Farm Bakery) are calling forth the beauty and reclaiming these spaces for community and flourishing. We love supporting this work.
Church happens in the conversations that take place around our campfire.
It happens in the labyrinth that I created on our second acre, where the kids go to experience peace.
It happens when our neighborhood gathers together to make bags of personal care items to hand out to those on the streets.
Church happens when we have guests stay in the little Airbnb suite above our garage and they write reviews like this:
“One of the area’s best hidden gems in NC. I left full of peace, serenity and hope knowing that no matter what comes my way, I will always be accepted and loved.”
Side note: I find this miraculous mostly because our family is loud, messy and very much in-process, so “peace” and “serenity” are not words I often associate with our home!
Church happens when kids come over to our porch to do art projects.
It happens in the way we ban together with the parents and grandparents on our cul-de-sac to help the kids work through conflicts and remember to clean up after themselves.
It will happen tomorrow night when we host a goodbye party for two kids whose father unexpectedly passed away four months ago and now they are moving because mom can’t handle staying in the house anymore.
It happens in the literal planting of seeds and watering and re-potting that takes place on our little farm, often with the kids involved in one way or another. And in those moments, I am reminded so clearly of Oscar Romero’s words:
“We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.”Oscar Romero, Prophets of a Future Not Our Own
I’m not really sure how to define “church” these days, but I have a hunch it has a lot to do with folks who feel deeply called to be lovers / activists in their own neighborhoods. Want to join me in this venture? I’d love to hear what church looks like for you!