Having a Blast in the Neighborhood

Last night was our first night of Soccer Nights. This is our ninth year running a free week of soccer, leadership development, and city unity in our neighborhood of North Cambridge. We’ve inspired other Soccer Nights programs around the city and in a few other spots in the country, but we love ours the most of course.

We had 203 six to twelve year-old children get out of their apartments and be together, learning to pass soccer balls while playing on a team and having a great time! A bevy of young children and parents played together in our 3-to-5 year old division. Nearly 20 thirteen to fifteen year-olds are enrolled in CREW, our leadership development and volunteer program. And another 75+ community volunteers coached, set up the field, served snacks, hosted parents, and organized tonight. Multi-generation Cantibrigians talked and played and danced alongside immigrants from Ethiopia and Bangladesh and Somalia and Haiti and Eritrea and Jamaica and China and more.

It was a beautiful night.

Our church is passionate about loving without agenda, and it is a gift to see the fruit of years of this commitment. Former Soccer Nights players are coaching now. A past parent participant is serving as official photographer. A former member of our youth ministry is directing the whole program, while other graduates of our youth ministry serve as interns and a past director serves under her as a division leader.

Tonight, one of our leaders said to me, “Hey, this is kind of like that ‘Art of Neighboring’ thing we talked about this spring! Is there a connection?”

You betcha.

Map your neighborhood

The art of neighboring for all of us is learning to find the life Jesus promises in loving our neighbor as ourselves, learning that this command is integrally linked to the experience of loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and experiencing God’s great love for us.

We neighbor as a church by encouraging us all to notice and love the people where we work and live, but we neighbor together as Reservoir in the City by noticing and loving our beautifully diverse and vibrant neighborhood of North Cambridge.

Beyond Soccer Nights, we’ve had some other fun and rewarding adventures in neighboring this month. We co-hosted with our Muslim neighbors our annual Iftar – the post-sunset dinner that Muslims share in community to break their fast each night during the month of Ramadan. This is a beautiful evening of peace-making and friendship and eating of big plates of delicious Bengali food!

This year, in my mini-talk, I reminded my Christian and Muslim neighbors of a story Isa al-Masih (Jesus the Messiah in Arabic, an honored and beloved prophet in Muslim religion) told in the Injil (Arabic for the New Testament). I told them that Isa said God is like a shepherd looking for a lost sheep and a woman looking for a lost coin, that as we fast and search for God, we can remember that God is also searching for us.

The picture below is actually from another Iftar this month, when my family and the Tolles family joined my friend pictured here, the imam Ismail Fenni, and a number of other city residents for a shared meal at the mosque in Central Square.


Earlier this month, we also baked and bought cookies for teachers in three local schools. Six volunteers baked and shared 350 cookies to appreciate 174 educators in these three schools in our neighborhood. One principal was so appreciative that a conversation ensued about a further partnership between that school and our church.


Big props to our Reservoir in the City part-time staff team – Cate Nelson, Tory Tolles, and Alice Liu, to our many dedicated volunteers, to all those that contribute financially to this church, and to our remarkable neighborhood where we get to love and neighbor without agenda.

It’s so good to be your neighbor, and to neighbor together!


(The Watsons, Iftaring together…)

More pictures of non-Watson neighbors to come…!

Things to Think About In the Art of Neighboring – Week 2

Matthew 22: 34-40 (NIV)

34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

In the sermon this week – Ivy offered a visual representation of how the greatest commandment can be understood.  She used an image of a  2-hinged door.  One hinge being –  Love the Lord your God.  The second hinge being –  love your neighbor as yourself.   These two hinges working together allow a great arch and movement of love to go before us in our lives.  This allows us great, wide expansive views of the landscape in front of us – inclusive of people who we can neighbor.    If only one of the hinges is in motion – the other hinge likely gets overworked or overstressed.  Often the overworked/overstressed hinge represents us – as we have to force and create our own extension of  love – without connection to God.

Questions & Invitations:

Take stock of your neighboring efforts.  How do you feel like they are operating?  Are there some that feel in full swing – with two-hinges engaged?  Are there some that feel more one-hinged?  Can you identify the ones where  you are doing the hard work of pushing the great big door of love open?

If the one-hinged approach to loving your neighbor resonates with you – invite God back into your neighboring relationships to connect you with His abundant resourcing.

Pray through verses of the greatest commandment – ask God to supernaturally expand your picture of love for Him as well as your neighbors – this week.


Metaphorical vs. Literal Neighboring

In the book, The Art of Neighboring, by Jay Pathak and Dave Runyon they talk a lot about taking the second half of the greatest commandment, “to love your neighbor as yourself” literally.   This literal picture of neighboring, however, often proves to be a real challenge in the context of our own lives; our stages of life, our neighborhood configuration and perhaps our introverted tendencies.

This challenge of thinking of our actual neighbors can often move us into a place of metaphorical neighboring.  And we can start to define our “neighbor” in the broadest of terms – as the “neighbor across town” or the organization we volunteer at and donate to, or anyone who’s in need.  While this is  perfectly true – it tends to take away from the importance of neighboring our immediate neighbors.  And the end result is that we often love neither our nebulous neighbor or our literal neighbor well.

Dave and Jay put it this way:

“When we try to love everyone, we often end up loving no one. If we are not careful, we can end up having metaphorical love for our metaphorical neighbors and the end result is that we actually do nothing.”

Questions & Invitations

Where are your efforts of neighboring?  In the metaphorical or literal realm?

What can you identify as your own reasons as to why metaphorical neighboring might be more your pulse right now?

If your metaphorical neighboring is a result of fear or busyness – ask God to help guide you into conversations and interactions with neighbors that will break down these hurdles.

Ask God to give you fresh eyes for the neighbors that surround you this week. Ask Him for a wide view with clear, peripheral vision.


The Good Samaritan Parable

Luke 10:25-37 (NLT)

25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”

27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”

29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.

33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

Questions & Invitations

  • The parable of the Good Samaritan is often read that we should be more generous and compassionate to those in need and that everyone is ultimately our neighbor.  This is a generative interpretation and one that can call out of us an inclination to take a good look at those around us and how we are interacting with them.
  • In addition, what can  we learn about “loving our neighbor as our-self” – if we imagine the law expert as the robbed victim in the parable?  What could Jesus be showing the law expert and us about this perspective?
  • The law expert asks Jesus after the discussion of the greatest commandment – “Who is my neighbor?”  Jesus tells the law expert the story of the Good Samaritan and then he poses this question back to the law expert, “Now who was a neighbor?”

    What does this question flip open up for the law expert in theory?   What does it open up for us in our own way of thinking about neighboring?

  • If Jesus is suggesting that one of our first steps in thinking of neighboring well – is to imagine our neighbor as ourselves – what messages do you glean about your own neighboring  if you do this?
  • In verse 33, the Good Samaritan after seeing the victim on the side of the road, then “feels compassion” for him  and out of this  seems to pour forth an abundance of resourcing – to powerfully meet the needs of this man on the side of the road.
    • Ask God to help you step out, see and feel compassion for those around you.   In addition ask Him to help you believe for the wealth of abundance He’ll provide for whatever your neighboring needs might look like as you do so.
  • If the road from Jerusalem to Jericho – can represent our own road of life – full of messiness, danger and real life needs… Take time to reflect and identify people in your own life who have represented the spirit of the Samaritan.
    Thank God for them as you head out on this road today.



Last week the invitation was to use the “Neighboring Map” as a visual prayer guide, for more of God’s generosity to drip into your neighborhood.  This week – use this Neighboring Map to gain a visual representation of how many of your neighbor’s names you know.    Use this map as indicator of where a natural lean might be in your own neighboring efforts.

If you know all of your neighbors names – then move to facts that you know of your neighbors by having conversations with them (versus facts you can obtain by observing).

Utilize this map as a way to pray for your six neighbors as you move through the rest of our neighboring series.



Snapshots of Neighboring from the Reservoir Community

Many of you have already communicated your experiences of neighboring to us – we thought it would be encouraging to share these as we all try to navigate our own efforts of neighboring!

“This week my son dragged my daughter and me out of the house early (even before my hair was done) and we all still had our pajamas on. I’m so glad he did though, because we met a neighbor whom we haven’t spoken to since we moved in 2 years ago. It turns out she’s 90 and she’s lonely. That was her primary word she used. She was out for her morning walk before the rain came. “

“Last night, I had a great dream about working side by side in a kitchen next to my grumpy neighbor across the street who I spy on all the time. In the dream he struck up a conversation with me as if we’d been talking forever. It was a great dream 🙂 Praying that it will be a reality.”

“This week I asked the little girl I was babysitting how she knew if someone was a neighbor. She answered, “Because they always say: “May I come in?” This was meaningful to me to think about neighboring as an invitation into something more – our lives, each other’s stories.”

“We had been told that Mrs L wasn’t very friendly, was actually rather grumpy. A year or two after moving in, we did some renovations at our place that required a big dumpster in our driveway. Mrs. L would be staring at that ugly dumpster for a few months, so I thought it would be neighborly to let her know ahead of time. I think she was surprised that anyone would reach out. She invited me in for a cup of tea and I got to hear her story. Turns out she isn’t grumpy or mean, she was grieving the death of her beloved husband. Neighboring reminds me that everyone has a story.”

“This week I looked up and made eye contact with my neighbor on the other side of the street – AND – I actually waved. This is a significant step in the context of our neighboring relationship”.

“For my five year-olds birthday party, recently, she invited a bunch of classmates including a girl we hadn’t spent much time with. Not tons of lines of difference between us, but I wanted to connect with the girl’s dad because his family is from Mexico and Amelia’s school tends to have outsized presence from white, upper-income families. As soon as we invite the girl, her family immediately sent an invitation to her own birthday, around the same time. We went and had a ball—just a few families, mostly their friends who had also immigrated from Mexico. So the party was a really new and valuable experience for Amelia—her first tres leches b-day cake, her first pinata—we loved it. I was really grateful Amelia had a chance to learn about the world and we got to build a bigger bridge.”

God totally opened up play with our neighbors next door who although we have boys the same age they barely played for the first three years we lived here.  We talked a few times with the other couple about putting a hole in the fence or removing it all together but it never happened.  Finally our more extroverted 4 year old started talking to them over the fence more and more and we finally decided to build some sort of platform so that he would stop climbing on the bunny hutch to talk to them.  The next day we came home from church, saw some wood on the street being put out for trash and thought we could use it to build a platform.  Low and behold it is a castle play house that has been taken apart.  We dragged it over and my husband put it back together and put it up against the fence and installed a door leading over the fence to our neighbors yard.  They bought at cargo net and attached it to their side of the fence, since then the boys went from playing a few times a year to almost every day.  We could have never built a castle that cool –  God totally gave us the castle and opened up friendship where we were struggling.”

“Our neighborhood should be perfect for kids. We live on a dead end, and there’s a family across the street from us with boys the same age as ours. They’ve been living there as long as we have, but somehow the kids never felt free to just hang out together without adults involved. Then a couple years ago a new family moved in next door, also with kids the same age. Those kids weren’t at all shy about coming over and asking our boys or our other neighbors out to play, and their example catalyzed all the neighborhood kids to be more open and invitational; now they’re all outside together most afternoons. We feel so grateful to be living somewhere with such an old-school feel, and I hope next time we find ourselves in a situation where the community isn’t as open and welcoming as it could be, we could be the catalysts!”
“I’ve been praying about more opportunities to meet my neighbors – where there just hasn’t seemed like there are any natural/organic opportunities.   Since I’ve been praying over the last 2 weeks – I’ve seen my neighbors across the street – more than I can remember.  I’m not sure if I’m just more aware to see them now – or if God is orchestrating moments of intersection.  Either way – I’m totally encouraged!” (Now to do something about it).

Email us at neighboring@reservoirchurch.org if you’d like to share your experience of neighboring.

Things to Think About In the Art of Neighboring

John 1:14 (The Message)
The Word became flesh and blood,
and moved into the neighborhood.
We saw the glory with our own eyes,
the one-of-a-kind glory,
like Father, like Son,
Generous inside and out,
true from start to finish.

This scripture illuminates the wonder of God becoming a person just like us. This transformation of God doesn’t leave him hovering at an arm’s-lengths distance from us – but takes him directly to our most grounding spheres – our neighborhoods. Jesus came to be close to us, to interact with us – to dwell among us.

Take a minute to think about the kind of neighborhood God moved into when He became human. Who did he see? Who did he eat with and sit at parties with? Who did he spend time with?

Take a minute to scan your own neighborhood. Who do you see in your neighborhood? Who do you hope to eat and sit at parties with? Who do you hope to spend time with?

Take time to imagine Jesus in your neighborhood. Picture Him in the apartment next to you, the house across from you, the bench outside your building, on your sidewalks – how could you imagine the impact of His generosity playing out in your neighborhood? Pray for this imagined picture to move toward reality in your neighborhoods.


Use the “Neighboring Map” below as a visual prayer guide. Pray throughout your week for Jesus’ generosity to drip into your neighborhood. Pray over your neighbor’s homes as you look at this map. If you know your neighbor’s names – incorporate them into your prayers as well.

Map your neighborhood

(Click the image for a larger version or download a PDF)

For Families:

Mr. Rogers Theme Song, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”:


It’s a beautiful day in this neighborhood,
A beautiful day for a neighbor,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

It’s a neighborly day in this beautywood,
A neighborly day for a beauty,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?

I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.

So let’s make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we’re together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbor?

Won’t you please,
Won’t you please,
Please won’t you be my neighbor?

Fred Rogers was an ordained minister and his faith surfaced in subtle, indirect ways that most viewers of his show might have missed – he wasn’t your typical televangelist. He firmly believed “the space between the television set and the viewer was holy ground,” and he trusted God to do the heavy lifting. Before entering his office each day, Mr. Rogers would pray, “Dear God, let some word that is heard be yours.” It’s been said that for nearly 40 years, Mr. Rogers entered homes to bandage broken psyches, mend fences of division, and preach peace.

Talk with your family about what neighboring means to them. What are your hopes for intersection with your neighbors? What are your hopes for your neighborhood? What is your prayer in neighboring over the next 6 weeks?
How does the idea of God doing the heavy lifting in your efforts of neighboring resonate with you?


Pray about one small “next step” that you could take in neighboring as a family.

Eulogy v. Resume Virtues

Steve kicked off our Art of Neighboring series this Sunday and mentioned in his sermon the notion of a “living eulogy”.

David Brooks an author and columnist for The New York Times, talks about this living eulogy sentiment as well. He believes that there are two sets of virtues, the resume virtues – of which our culture and educational systems place high value on – the skills that you bring to the marketplace. And the eulogy virtues, which are the ones that are talked about at your funeral (or in the case of a living eulogy, ones that you can identify in someone alive) – these virtues focus on whether you were “kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?”

Brooks goes on to talk about this idea of deep love – this energizing love – as something that he believes is an essential piece in experiencing the richest possible life. Here’s a snippet from his article around “energizing love”:
Dorothy Day (social activist and journalist), led a disorganized life when she was young: drinking, carousing, a suicide attempt or two, following her desires, unable to find direction. But the birth of her daughter changed her. She wrote of that birth, “If I had written the greatest book, composed the greatest symphony, painted the most beautiful painting or carved the most exquisite figure I could not have felt the more exalted creator than I did when they placed my child in my arms.” (You can read the full article here)

That kind of love decenters the self. It reminds you that your true riches are in another. Most of all, this love electrifies. It puts you in a state of need and makes it delightful to serve what you love.

Dorothy Day made unshakable commitments in all directions. She became a Catholic, started a radical newspaper, opened settlement houses for the poor and lived among the poor, embracing shared poverty as a way to build community, to not only do good, but be good. This gift of love overcame, sometimes, the natural self-centeredness all of us feel.

Jesus seems to corroborate that this energizing love is something we too, can access when we think about neighboring. He says in Matthew 22: 37-39 (NIV):

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

How does the sentiment “your true riches are in another” resonate as you think about your neighbors?


If the word “love” feels like a hurdle as you think about the neighbors that surround you – pray that Jesus would start to crack open and energize this word for you.