What if there was one thing you could do to improve your physical health, improve your mental health, improve the economy, increase your happiness and reduce crime by 60%?
As it turns out, there is.
Over the last 20 years there has been an ever-increasing body of research that demonstrates the remarkable benefits of one simple act: getting to know your neighbours.
Not surprisingly, forward thinking local governments have taken notice of the research and have moved to be pro-active in encouraging neighbours to connect with one another.
Here in St. Albert, the city has been strategically working towards this end, with one of the most successful initiatives being a partnership with Neighbourhood Watch (who have also read the research) to encourage block parties. Last year 4,896 people attended one of the 102 block parties held in our city.
Last year, the City’s Neighbourhood Development Officer, Angie Dedrick, contacted several church leaders to talk about the possibility of churches taking a more pro-active role in encouraging our people to be good neighbours, and getting involved in block parties.
Angie had read a book written by a Pastor in Denver, where the local association of ministers had received a similar request from their Mayor. The leaders in our city had a similar reaction that the pastors in Denver had: embarrassment.
You see, loving our neighbours is not meant to be an optional extra for followers of Jesus. It was He who said that the whole heart of faith could be summed up as Loving God with all that you are, and loving your neighbour as yourself.
Somehow we who regularly read our bibles can miss this very simple command.
When Angie posed the question to us, it forced us to confront an obvious question: What if, when Jesus said to love our neighbours, he actually meant the people who lived next door to us?
As we looked at each other around the table, the answer was fairly self-evident. We needed to take more seriously what it means to both equip and encourage our members to put this central Christian teaching into practise.
So, this year, the St. Albert Ministerial is very pleased to be throwing our full encouragement behind the city’s block party initiative.
Through the month of April, a number of our local churches will be preaching about what it means to be a good neighbour.
We have also begun, in partnership with Neighbourhood Watch and the City, the Good Neighbour Project. We have a long-term goal of seeing a block party happen on every street in the city.
The St. Albert Christian Ministerial is committed to work together across denominational lines, and with any other community groups and organizations who also want to see a city that is healthier, happier, more financially secure and safer.
We are very grateful that Angie had the courage to challenge us to be more intentional to do the very thing that Jesus asked us to do 2000 years ago.
Pastor Matt Garvin
St. Albert Alliance Church