Community in the City
"What Hinders Community" is a recent post on the Desiring God blog by John Piper's son, Abraham. Abraham interviews Paul Tripp from Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, who notes how his recent empty-nester move to a loft in Chinatown has resulted in far less gas consumption, far more walking, and a far more enjoyable pace of life.
We all don't need to move to an urban setting to slow down our go-go-go mindsets and/or to find authentic interactions with others. Cities can seduce us towards frenetic living and/or crippling loneliness amidst the hordes; and suburbs can become wonderful oases of both calm and community.
But I would say that being able to walk everywhere, randomly bump into other congregants and friends in public places, and quickly organize impromptu play dates and barbecues is a big plus in terms of fostering Christian community. Whereas the relative isolation and auto-dependence of many of our suburbs can present quite a challenge in being able to pursue relationships without scheduling oneself into a frenzy.
Ultimately, the sin is not in our setting but in our hearts. An avoidance of real relationships, an idolatrous need to keep busy, or a carnal drivenness for more for ourselves or our children: these are all found in our hearts, and don't magically disappear just because we change addresses.
Tripp is right about the core things: simplify, slow down, enjoy. Whether in the city or the burbs, may we, whose value and purpose are derived from fundamentally different places than those of the world around us, live accordingly.