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Back Deck vs. Front Porch

The Art of Neighboring…  
This fall we are considering Jesus’ command to “love our neighbor.”  Notice, Jesus is not suggesting… he is not recommending… he is not hoping against hope that maybe sometimes we will ‘love our neighbor.’  NO… Jesus is giving us a command.  Most of us think of Jesus as a ‘friend’, so we have a hard time imagining Him giving us a command.  But the call to love our neighbor is His expectation of how we will live our lives… every day… His grace pouring through us into our neighborhoods and workplaces and families.  Imagine a world where people actually obey the command to ‘love their neighbor.’  I want to live in that world!  But if I want to live in that world, I will have to live out Jesus’ command.

That brings me to the importance of architecture.  Have you ever considered how the architecture of our homes impacts our neighborhoods?  Several years ago, I took a group of teens and adults to Appalachia for a mission project.  For a week, we sent out teams of willing teens with our skilled carpenters to do home repairs for the hidden people living in the nooks and crannies of the Appalachian Mountains.  They repaired a roof, installed a kitchen floor, fixed plumbing, and sided a house.  Often the group worked side by side with the family they were serving.  At one home, the 86-year-old owner played her banjo and told stories of the mountain folks as the team worked.  At each work site, our teams could see the importance of the work they were doing… all except one. That team had been asked to remove a rotting porch from the front of a house and replace it with another porch.  The team wondered why the mission wanted them to invest the time and money to build a new porch when there were so many other needs in the house.  Why not just build simple steps up to the front door and leave it at that? But the mission leader explained that in Appalachia the front porch was the most important ‘room’ in the house.  That was where you could sit and watch for your neighbors… you could call out to your neighbor… you could invite your neighbor to come up and ‘sit a spell.’

When I run around my community in the morning, I see a lot of homes with back decks but only a few with front porches.  In most home architecture, the front porch has gone the way of shag rugs and linoleum countertops.  Today, most of us either buy a house with a back deck, or we save until we can build one.  Very few of us would intentionally put a front porch on our home.  Think about the significance of a back deck vs. a front porch.  A back deck is a private, secluded, ‘by-invitation-only’ space.  We build back decks to create a refuge from the world.  During the pandemic, one of our neighbors created the most amazing back refuge.  It begins with a deck complete with a seating area, a table, and a grill.  Steps lead down to a stone patio with lounge chairs in which you can relax and enjoy the gardens that stretch in all directions.  As I watched the creation of this outdoor space, I must admit I envied the oasis.

But, for all the beauty of that space, I still like my front porch better! From my front porch, I can watch life go by… I can call out to my neighbors (which embarrassed by children when they were little)… I can invite a neighbor to come and sit for a while. Years ago, our next-door neighbor bought a Labrador puppy. He loved to escape, run across the yard, and slip through the spindles of our porch to claim some snuggles from us. One day, this pup tried to slip through the spindles on his way to a neighborly visit, only to discover that his belly had grown too fat. From that point out, we met him in the yard to play. Recently, I have noticed an interesting trend among some of my neighbors… Adirondack chairs in the front yard. These neighbors all have back decks for refuge, but they opt to relax in their front yards in the evening, even inviting the neighbors to join them. Perhaps the front lawn has become today’s front porch.

I love the architecture of Pine Run Retirement Community. Their homes are arranged in ‘clusters’ with all the front doors opening onto a courtyard. There the ‘cluster’ community can gather with a garden and seating area for the community to share… and share they do! I’m wondering if there is a way for us to create gathering places where we live. That is the idea behind the Free Fall Fest that Lenape Valley Church is hosting on Sunday, October 16th from 2-4pm. We are inviting our neighbors to gather on our lawn to enjoy food, music, games, and even free blood pressure screenings. I am hoping that you will help us offer this gift to our church neighbors. Call the church office or sign up after worship… we need all hands-on deck to be able to give this love gift to our neighbors.

With you in Prayer,
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