By Ruth Smith
Who are our neighbors? How do the words that we use affect how others live? What are the underlying assumptions that define our values and guide our lives? How do we create spaces of belonging? What do we do when we are challenged to change?
As Christians and community members, we are called towards peace, justice, and to improve the quality of life for all. This is what we will explore in the community gathering group that will meet on second Mondays. Each month we will discuss a different topic ranging from poverty to immigration, food insecurity to community building through roundtable discussion, interactive activities, short readings and videos, and of course sharing our stories and building connections with others and God. On September 11 at 7 pm in the parlor Conference Room we will start off this group by exploring the topic of neighbors.
This summer, many of us participated in the Garden and Grill meals or helped with the community garden. One of the goals of starting this particular initiative was to build relationships with our neighbors in Centennial Neighborhood. One of my closest friends in Lafayette lived just up the hill from Trinity. For years, I’d been climbing the stairs to her family’s second story apartment on 8th Street and heard stories about her neighbors. The mother and daughter who lived behind them, all the tenants coming and going from the apartments across the alley, and the downstairs neighbor who was a wizard with plants. When we started the garden, I had my friend introduce me to her green thumb neighbor. Lindy has single-handedly saved all my indoor plants. But more importantly, as soon as she heard what Trinity was doing with their garden, she was in! I don’t know that I would have gotten to know Lindy had it not been for the garden. And my plants certainly wouldn’t still be alive.
As you look around you, do you know your neighbors? Who do you consider to be your neighbor? I’ve thought a lot about this question, and this idea of neighbor has guided my interfaith work with Getting to Know Our Muslim Neighbors. From the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), we see Jesus expand the definition of neighbor. The lawyer wanted him to define “neighbor” and limit the field so to speak to who he should care about.
Jesus did not set boundaries. In fact, in the parable, it was a Samaritan, one of the most reviled groups at the time, who was the good neighbor. Jesus expands the definition of neighbor to include strangers, those disconnected and cast out from society. This parable has spoken to me about Muslims in our particular political climate. Who does this parable speak to for you? Who do you encounter throughout your day that you’ve overlooked? Who could you reach out to and get to know, really get to know?
Join us on Monday, September 11 at 7 pm, and invite a friend, co-worker, or neighbor to join you. There will be light refreshments.