Yesterday was our monthly all-staff meeting at the church.  This includes the four of us who meet weekly (Gwen, Mark, Mim, and me), along with our building manager Jeff D, accountant Ellen K, and custodian Elizabeth C (her husband Kevin is also a custodian but works at a school during daytime hours).  It’s a special group to work with.

It’s a brief meeting – a chance to check in and share information.  I opened by reading our Vision for Ministry for the year: “We will cultivate beloved community by deepening relationships within and beyond our congregation.” 

I asked each person to tell of one way they are experiencing a deepening of relationships.  To my surprise, nearly all of us mentioned developing closer relationships with our immediate neighbors.  We agreed this was pandemic-related.  Being around the home more and having less places to go has made for more encounters and conversations with folks who live nearby. 

I’m not sure how wide of a national or global trend this is, but it is a potential positive side-effect of the virus.  It reminds me of a quote that I can’t locate in my files or on Google but I think is from the theologian Raimon Panikkar: “The world will be saved by the well-worn paths between neighbors.”  Or something like that.  Fact check welcome. 

A little over a week ago our neighbor with whom we share a driveway died after a steady decline in health.  Larry had become a good friend to us and formed a special bond with Ila who also enjoyed he and his wife Anne’s adorable puppies, and stash of cookies.  Yesterday evening Anne hosted a memorial service and supper for Larry in their large backyard, a lovely celebration of his life. 

One of the first things Larry told us when we first moved in captures his spirit for me.  He wanted us to know that our yard didn’t stop at the official boundary line, but that his yard was our yard (there is no fence or marker).  And not just the yard, but a playhouse, a little cottage, and his garage stocked with tools.  We took him up on his offer many times.

Larry and I had very different politics, and theology.  But his initial invitation to disregard the invisible line between us created the foundation of a relationship of neighborly love.  We will miss Larry dearly, and I’m grateful for the well-worn path between our homes.