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The television program ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,’ which ran from 1968 to 2001, put the vibrancy of local neighborhoods on full display. When Fred Rogers opened his studio home to the world, he invited children (and adults!) to discover what was beautiful, good and right about the very ordinary neighborhoods in the show’s hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In today’s globally networked world, what does it mean for us as the people of God to take seriously the gifts and abundance in our unique neighborhoods?

Far from being quaint relics of a bygone era, neighbors and neighborhoods still matter, even for churches. A 2017 Baylor University study found that people prefer to keep church local. The study determined that on average, we drive about half the distance (or less) to church that we drive to work. Neighborhoods are the places and spaces where people in our churches are living their faith Monday through Saturday.

If we have learned nothing else in recent years, we’ve learned that we cannot thrive without strong personal connections. Churches are often long-standing institutions within neighborhoods, but churches often lose their connection with their neighbors over time. Children grow up, families relocate and the connections that once happened organically because of the overlap between the church and community cease to exist.

Tending to the relationships in our neighborhoods is central to living out the gospel. As we get to know our neighborhoods, we get better acquainted with the hurts, hopes and gifts of the people who live among us. When we know each other’s gifts, innovative possibilities emerge. People who were once unseen become seen. An expert in the law once asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29) How might your leadership team answer that question?


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Before you go…

A few months ago, as I stood in my church’s parking lot, I noticed a man walking his dog. I approached him and told him that I was the pastor of the church. Then I asked if he would mind talking for a few minutes. I learned that he and his wife had lived in the neighborhood for 10 years. He was British and worked in the IT industry. We had a great conversation. He even offered to give computer lessons to members of the church.

I cannot imagine what might be possible if our church had 10, 20 or 50 more conversations like the one I had. What I do know is that all it takes is one conversation to catch a glimpse of the potential in our neighborhoods.

What are you doing with your neighbors? You can reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu. Until next week, keep leading!

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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