By Rev. Susan Brims, East District Missional Strategist and Superintendent
Most of the time I would not think that the request was strange at all. “Is it ok if I give you a hug?” This time the question came out of the blue. I had asked for a ride to the airport. After I got into the car the driver greeted me. She noticed my last name and said when she was in high school there was a school nurse who had the same last name. My response was to say, “you must have attended Maryvale High School.” The woman was shocked and said that she did and wondered how I could have known that. I told her that my mother had been the nurse at Maryvale for many years.
As we drove to the airport, the woman told me how she had become pregnant when she was in high school. Upset and frightened she found herself in the nurse’s office. She poured her heart out to my mom, telling her that she had no idea how to tell her parents. The woman told me that mom offered to go with her when she was ready to tell her parents, which she did. Over the years the woman never forgot the kindness she experienced through mom’s acceptance of her. It opened the door for healing between the pregnant teenager and her own parents.
When we finally arrived at the airport the driver got my suitcase out of the trunk of the car. That is when she asked if it was ok if she gave me a hug. It had to have been 40 years since the time she talked to my mother, but the conversation still lived large in the woman’s heart.
In Luke 10:25-37 a lawyer is talking to Jesus and asks, “who is my neighbor?” In response Jesus tells the story that we call the Good Samaritan. It is a powerful story about church people, a man who had been beaten up by robbers and left to die, and a stranger.
It’s easy to read the story in Luke 10 and agree that it’s a nice story. It’s another thing to live it in today’s world. Neighboring seems to be a lost art. A couple of years ago the Rev. Joel Bullock, associate pastor at Dayspring UMC, introduced me to The Missional Wisdom Foundation. It is an independent 501c3, but states that it exists to be a resource to The United Methodist Church. As I looked at their website I was intrigued by one of their experiments. It was called The Neighboring Movement.
The Neighboring Movement began through the work of a United Methodist Church in Wichita, Kansas. The Neighboring Movement is a movement that “participates in, and teaches about, enhancing community through the practice of neighboring.” I would encourage you to learn more about this Movement – https://neighboringmovement.org/goodneighborexperiment.
If living through the pandemic has taught us anything, it is the importance of connection. It didn’t take much for my mother to sit with a frightened teenager, yet it impacted her life in a profound way. Connections often happen in simple ways. What would happen if our churches engaged in the intentional practice of making connections with people that we meet, with people we live near or people we work with? What if we worked hard at developing the skill to not only make the connections and develop relationships, but also understood this as transformational ministry?
If you or your church is interested in participating in a Neighboring Movement Experiment let me know. I would love to get a group of us together to see what might just happen. We will learn and prepare during the summer so that we could launch our own Neighboring Movement in the fall.
As we emerge from isolation I believe God is calling us to love our neighbors, to develop wider circles of relationships, and experience God’s grace in the power of community.
Will you join me in this experiment?
Your sister on the Journey,