I grew up in the quiet suburban town of Friendswood, Texas, southeast of Houston. Late summers were hot and humid and comprised of long, sunny days only occasionally punctuated by a late afternoon thunderstorm. For some strange reason, in my little section of town, no one ever built fences. Perhaps a cost-savings measure by the builder, or just an oversight, but it was an unusual feature of our neighborhood. Even today, my parent’s house, the home I grew up in, has no privacy fencing.
Most of the neighborhood families had children my age, and on those long summer days, we would join in colossal games of hide-and-seek, ghost tag, or a host of other outdoor activities that would span across the multiple unfenced backyards. Soon our backyard games attracted children from other nearby neighborhoods. At its peak, our games could include more than fifty youngsters. Parents would swap out on who would fill the dingy igloo cooler with ice and water and set up a table to provide for the red-faced and overheated. On more than one occasion, our games turned into a neighborhood cookout, some families supplying casseroles and salads, potluck style, and someone lighting up a grill for hotdogs. It was an inverted block party spanning the unfenced backyards and creating authentic connections among neighbors. And it all seemed so effortless. No one had to create a special day, make a plan, or send an invitation. It all just seemed to have happened, because a home builder, for whatever reason, failed to build fences.
It is difficult to imagine what will spark a community into authentic connections. The cultural conditions, the characteristics of individuals, the geography, perhaps even an unfortunate circumstance like a pandemic, can create opportunity. The community only has to be willing to respond.
As I get to know you, I have recognized you as a people who are willing to respond. I have read it in Zion’s history, I have heard it in your stories, and I have experienced it, when, during a pandemic, in your desire to gather together in-person safely, you have made a weekly service possible. I am excited by the possibilities and the unforeseen opportunities to respond together as the people of Zion.