St. Giles has never connected very well with her own neighbors. The most recent figures I saw showed that only 11% of our folks come from the two closest zip codes! There are many factors involved in this, not the least of which is that our immediate neighborhood is wealthy, and there’s that little matter of the “needle’s eye.” (See Mark 10:25.)
As best as I can tell, St. Giles is where she is by the providence of God, which means that we cannot ignore where we are. How might we connect with our own neighborhoods for the sake of Jesus?
Something happens when well-heeled Christians venture out of their tidy communities into the chaotic communities of the poor. There we meet Jesus in distressing disguises – a la Mother Teresa – and he begins to heal us of many blindnesses. Thus the exhilaration of our student ministries in their regular encounters with the homeless. We’re all called to such ministries in one form or another.
But that doesn’t replace the challenge of how we might minister for Jesus right around the block. Our neighbors don’t need many of the things that give us an entree in our ministry with the poor – food, education, and medicine. They have the best of all such things. But our neighbors do need what money cannot buy: friendship and purpose. We have those in spades. What is Christian fellowship, if not friendship in its truest forms? And what is our high calling as disciples, if not a purpose substantial enough to garner all of life’s ambitions and energies?
It will take some creativity, but I believe that we can minister close to “home” as well as far away. And I thank God for the privilege of your friendship as we pursue his high purposes for us.