“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.” (John 1:14, The Message)
I believe it was that nice man Bob, way back in the side burn days of 1971, on that new Street show for teaching children how to be nice, who first asked, “Who are the people in your neighborhood?”
(I bet you are humming the tune in your head now.)
As it turns out, that query was first raised on another street, in an interchange recalled in Luke chapter 10. Hoping to stump Jesus publicly and make himself out to look more religious, a lawyer responds to some of his teaching about the great commandments by playing dumb and asking: Well, who really is my neighbor? (As is sometimes the case in religious exchanges, he didn’t really want an answer.)
No one is playing dumb at First Church, New Castle, however—not about the people in their neighborhood. Twice a month on a Saturday, all throughout the year, some First folks get organized to ask the question again. The doors are opened to the Social Hall. Tables are set. Ovens are warmed. And neighbors trickle in from all around Jefferson Street. They call it Glory Grille. Indeed, some of you may have served. A great many groups have pitched in over the course of 10 glorious years. At this point, First must be inching their way toward 250 meals served since that first table setting.
But the core of this crew will tell you that it is not so much about how many meals are made or seconds served. Sure, the numbers matter. We measure what we value. But ask them — the First folk who come both Saturdays a month, who feel the biggest burden to carry it on — and they’ll tell you how it is more about the people than the food. Greeting. Meeting. Talking. Praying. “Everyone should be met with a smile,” a long-time Glory girl tells me. “This should be a place that brightens their day.” Maybe that explains the back of her shirt: “His light in the city.” The gold on blue letters are a reminder to us all: Let the glory of our grilles, the glory of our guests, shine on the one who hosts us all in the first place. Matthew 22:1-10
Folks at First learn twice a month who is really in their neighborhood. Once a sanctuary full of Suits and Hats, these days some at First wrestle with how the Holy Spirit is nudging them toward the neighbors who are actually along their stretch of Jefferson. That’s a tune all of our churches could be humming, whatever our streets are called.
Who are the people in your church’s #neighborhood?