Bates Place Neighbors is the community center through which First CRC in Grand Rapids is building relationships with neighbors. This newsletter is a great example of how it is done and how progress is being made.
Wayne Squires, Director for Bates Place Neighbors, gives a great introduction to the ongoing work of neighboring well.
"The authors of a helpful book called The Art of Neighboring begin the first chapter with a thought provoking question: What if the solution to our society’s biggest issues has been right under our noses for the past two thousand years? They, of course, make reference to Jesus’ summary of God’s call upon our lives to 1) Love God with everything you have, and 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. And then there is the follow-up question: What if Jesus meant we should love our actual neighbors? You know, the people who live next door and on the same block!
The staff and board of Bates Place Neighbors are nearly two years into a renewed journey that assumes a positive response to the above questions. Yes, prioritizing love of neighbor as a genuine, intentional expression of love for God will help develop needed trust and energy to address significant cultural-social challenges. Yes, the starting point is getting to know and work with those who live and work in close proximity. For us, this means connecting with those who live and spend a lot of time in southeast Grand Rapids, especially in the area bounded by Franklin, Eastern, Wealthy, and Madison.
We are figuring out that the art of neighboring includes consistent presence and simple conversations. It involves celebrating and sharing good food and good conversation. It means working with others to nurture and care for the neighborhood. It creates natural opportunities to pray with folks and encourage their participation in a life of faith, a life that embraces the example and teaching of Jesus.
You will note that the images in this newsletter edition emphasize the celebrating and nurturing aspects of our neighbor focused work this summer. The Bates Bash in July was an incredibly joyful event, and the Harvest Party in August at the Allen Manor Gardens was a beautiful reminder of what a collaborative effort can literally produce. Thanks to all of you who continue to support and pray for us. With your ongoing encouragement, we will become more skilled in the neighboring arts. And hopefully, our mission of neighbor-centered social change will encourage you to bloom as a loving neighbor … right where you are planted!"
Until next time,