A Return to the Neighborhood Church

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The wheels hit the tarmac on my flight home from Seattle around noon yesterday.

I had just attended the Parish Collective’s Inhabit Conference, my second time at the conference (the first being last year, when both Tim and I attended). Inhabit cultivates a rather unique and eclectic gathering of church leaders and faith-based practitioners from across the country.

Truthfully, there aren’t many conferences that feel closely aligned with the heart of our placemaking work, and even fewer that are uncompromisingly grounded in a passion to see local churches do one thing really, really well:

the ordinary, everyday work of loving our neighborhoods.

We’ve discovered that Inhabit provides this much-needed space of encouragement and connection for us and our work at Ace in the City. Between the songs, sessions, and speakers, we centered ourselves on lyrics like these:

On our streets, our alleys
Lost forgotten space
Be with us here, Be with us here

We are your church,
Your body in this place

Oh God we see You here,
Oh God we see You here
Your freedom come
Ground us in love here in this place

We welcome the stranger in Your name,
You put us in this place
We eat at the table You have made,
You put us in this place
We live in abundance of Your grace,
You put us in this place
We laugh and dance as You liberate,
You put us in this place

We are your church,
Your body in this place

(“In This Place” by Derek Rice)

And I found myself stopped dead in my tracks by this poignant, powerful word from Raul Ochoa of the Mosaic Initiative in North Chicago):

“God does not outsource the transformation of a community.”

Friends, it almost seems too simplistic, but this really is the work to which we are called: being present and intentional in our neighborhoods and with the people we are blessed to call our neighbors.

And this has always been God’s heart for the church: that we would partner with God and with others in laboring collectively for the flourishing of our neighborhoods.

With renewed hope,