Do The Church Hop Part I: Small Things In My Blood
On May 18th, Courtney and I will be leaving Maple City Chapel to join the church formerly known as 808 (now Thrive) which meets upstairs in the Goshen Theater. It has been a long decision in the making; we've been tossing it around for nearly two years now, finally settling on it this January. Especially because I serve in such a visible role at Maple City, I figured I should offer some sort of explanation to those I haven't been able to chat with one on one. I've always been involved with small things.
My grandparents lived in a magical podunk mountain town called Brownsville, the sort of place that had a single blinking light and a wide main street fit for wagons. Halfway down main street, tucked up on a tree infested and rocky hill above the river stood my grandparents church. The sort of high spire, cathedral wanna be that desperately needed new paint and possibly a roof. It was a small church, taller than it was wide. In the front left corner of the sanctuary there was a piano and an organ, both of which my grandmother played on most of the sundays we attended. From time to time she would let us sit with her while she pushed and pulled tabs and flipped switches and press keys with her hands and bass pedals with her feet on that magic box while the mostly in tune congregation belted out a hymn or some chorus from the seventies and a fellow sitting in the pews played any number of harmonicas from his briefcase. Between each song he would fumble through a few until he found the right one. "What key is this one in?" he would sometimes say.
Everyone in that church knew everyone else well. I know because people would come to my grandparent's house to visit. One guy lived the next driveway over up on the mountain, another up the hill. And in town we'd bump into them at the post office, the movie rental store, the circle K (or whatever pseudo grocery store it was) and the only restaurant in town. The world was small so you really didn't have a choice.
As a kid I lived a 4-wheeler ride across the field from my Father's entire immediate family. Ironically, proximity would probably be the only way I could say that that side of the family was close. But they were always right there, which was a comforting thought. While my great grandparents Myers were still alive, we'd ride down and get one of great grandma's molasses cookies (frozen of course), and in the fall we'd press cider in their hand crank machine.
The private schools I went to weren't much different. By the time I left junior high there were 13 of us in my class, 5 of which I had gone to school with since kindergarten. In high school, my class of 40 was one of the largest the school had seen in a while. At College in Ohio there were 120 of us. During one of the winter terms when simultaneous groups were on a tour in Europe and studying in Spain our ranks were cut to 40 or so on campus.
So the soil of my mind is rich with small things, close knit things, places small enough to walk around in. So it's not surprising that I began to ask myself why life couldn't stay this way, paced carefully and close together. I watched videos on New Urbanization, which is a city planning philosophy that squishes residential, commercial, educational, recreational, religious and even industrial into the same few blocks. The idea is that every part of your life is within walking distance. I also read about groups like Reba Place Church in Chicago that owns an apartment complex where some of the church members live together and share some of their resources. Throw in a healthy dose of Walden Pond or Wendyll Berrey's fictional Jayber Crow, a man who lives in a wonderful Brownsville sort of town that he watches die as the freeways are put in. Heck, even reading the gospels, watching Jesus live the pace that he did, I continue to find it intoxicating. But it's a sentiment some have dubbed idealistic nostalgia.
No, it's not. I know because I'm living it.
On Saturday, Courtney and I walked down to Rachel's Bread for breakfast where we ran into three regulars from the coffee shop we work at, crossed paths with the Mayor twice, and bought some groceries at the farmers market attached to Rachel's bread, which is right next to our bank. And on the way home (3.5 blocks) we came within a half block of the church we will be attending, a half block from the soup kitchen that runs the meals on wheels route I drive, past our optometrist, and past the coffee shop where I roast coffee while Courtney does lunches, catering, and works behind the counter.
Let me draw you a map.
Whoops, I left out a Mayoral sighting close to work.
It has taken us a long time to get to this reality, filtering all our decisions over the past three or more years through a geographic location. Sacrificing great opportunities, job offers, bigger living spaces etc. in order to simplify, slow down, and focus. And the last item left? Maple City Chapel is a 5-20 minute drive (depending on the traffic and factory shift changes.)
More in a few days.