Friday, October 21, 2011

What makes a good neighbour?

“Which one of these was a neighbour to the man in need?” This question is the conclusion to Jesus' answer to another question “Who is my neighbour?” Note that Jesus doesn't answer the question asked, Jesus doesn't say “Those in need are your neighbor.” Jesus asks who acted as a neighbor, he really answers the question “Why be a neighbor?” with “Be a neighbor because you see ones in need.” Everyone is our neighbor in this world, it honestly may be the best term we can use for others. The Greek term used here literally means “the one nearby” and has the implication of “a person I know of.” We all know people in need, either specific people who we know by name, or people who we know exist even if we don't happen to see them everyday because of how our world is sometimes divided. We can all talk about places where there are struggles and people who are in need, and because of that we should call them neighbor.

One of the ministries we worked with this past summer was the Urban Ministry center in Charlotte. They call all who come to see them neighbors, and often over time by name. They care about the homeless who have need of medical care, food, clothing, shelter, help getting paperwork so that they can be employed, and just love from another person who has the ability to help. Our youth were touched by one of these neighbors, Gary. As Gary told his story, you could see the stories of others we had met over the week flood through the minds and hearts of our youth. They saw someone who they could help and could love, and made a decision that they weren't leaving without finding him again and giving him a gift. This isn't because it was the right thing to do, but because he was a neighbor. One in need.

It doesn't matter who our neighbors are, we will know them when we see them, because the Spirit that lives within us sees others spirits and feels their needs. This is God at work in this world, caring for others and fighting for justice. But more than that it is building a relationship and being that neighbor, a neighbor who doesn't separate from others, whose concern, like the Samaritan in scripture is for the “other” the “neighbor.” There are no walls, no rules, no laws, no expectations that keep him from being a neighbor. Likewise we must question the things that divide us, do they likewise keep us from seeing each other and our needs, from letting the Spirit of God act among us as it wishes, bringing all together in God's love. In The Mending Wall by Robert Frost we see a narrator who questions the walls that are built between neighbors, and a neighbor who seems to the narrator to walk in a sort of darkness, protecting self interest and not sharing love, even as he is unable to understand the need for such a divide and just clings to it because it's always been there. May we be ones who question the walls in our lives and in the world. Thus may we become the neighbors to all that we are called to be.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
Where there are cows?
But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Monday, October 10, 2011

What would I ask myself:

While I was out directing 50 HS/MS on how to act on the Ed Sullivan Show, someone asked me online what questions I'd ask someone interviewing for a youth and family position. Here is a short list of things:

Why do you feel this ministry is important to a church?

What things would be a sign to you that a church thought this ministry was important?

In doing this ministry, what things do you see being the best use of your time and skills?

What are some of the best things you've seen others do that you have not been able to replicate (and follow up with "Why" if needed)?

How do you see other ministries in this church affecting and intersecting with this ministry?

Where do you feel you (would) work best when doing this ministry?

In what ways do you find the parts of this ministry similar? different?  (depending on what info they have may also have to ask "what do you find to be the essentials of this ministry")

Something you thought would work really well didn't turn out the way you expected, what would you do?

How do see relationships, programing, resourcing, and planning working together in your view of this ministry?

A new family comes to worship, what do you do? (or has been coming for a month, depending on what you want to know)

How does your own life reflect the ideals that you feel are most important to the work of this ministry, in what ways does it not?

How does this ministry affect other groups in the church (list if needed)?

How do you deal with someone who feels that a major part of your ministry is "not for them?"

Who are the most important people to your ministry?

I could go on for a while (and have) but this is a good kickoff interview list I think to get people to possibly give more than just canned answers and open up comfortably about if a ministry is truly a fit.