Have you taken time lately to reflect on what actions you might already be doing that could be considered neighboring? Maybe it’s picking up litter along your road or sharing a sweet treat with your neighbor just because. Perhaps it’s visiting the locally owned coffee shop on your square or leaving a Google review for a company that worked on your home. Maybe it’s a simple hello to your neighbor as you are out on a walk. Both small and big acts of neighboring are meaningful and can be a way to serve your community through a new lens.
At the second RMC Collab, pastors and laity gathered to explore, brainstorm and celebrate different types of neighboring opportunities, especially relating to rural contexts. As God’s people are called into the mission of all shapes and sizes in different communities, they witness where God has been at work and is working. God equips communities and people with unique gifts and talents to transform the world and live in God’s image.
The group explored resources encouraging reflection and celebration for current practices and gifts used in the mission. For example, the neighborhood map asks participants to name the people in the eight closest front doors to their home and to consider their relationship level and how that might change over time. A church can also use this activity to identify people at the closest doors to the church, whether those are homes or businesses. This could lead to conversations about building relationships differently or affirming that current missional strategies reflect the needs. Another resource the group explored was learning conversations that can identify hidden gifts and connect.
Participants answer questions such as: What is something you know so well that you could teach it to someone else? What is something that you can build/make/do? What is something you are passionate about? What life experience could you walk alongside one another in? The result is a garden full of gifts of each participant’s head, hands, heart and spirit. This activity can be used across various contexts and remind us of the resources already available to a group.
Throughout the day, Rev. Jayne Markin shared examples of how she and Bernie UMC are embracing acts of neighboring through gifts for teachers, Project Generosity, and their presence at community events like Trunk or Treat and Christmas in the Park.
Markin emphasizes the meaning of presence in small and rural communities and that people recognize when the church and its members are active in the community. “We can live life and be doing our work simultaneously,” Markin said. She advocates for celebrating the places and times we are already impacting our neighbors by being present, supporting individuals and organizations, and celebrating service to the community in its many forms.