Tuesday, May 5, 2009

New Urbanism: The Return of the Neighborhood Church?

There is a move that I've been observing for the past ten years that is now being called "new urbanism." I saw it with the Meadowmont Community in Chapel Hill, and now in the newer developments in Asheville, NC. This movement is driving by our increasing desire to be in community and the realization that we have lost something vital to our existence, relationships. Moving to the suburbs, not knowing our neighbors, and removing ourselves from community has caused us to lose touch with those around us. "New urbanism" seems to be an attempt to reclaim that. I think in order to for it to work it will need three things.
  1. A spiritual center: having shops and restaurants within walking distance won't create community if there isn't a place that touches the heart and not just the wallet. In the heart of Southern Village in Chapel Hill is Christ United Methodist Church, this congregation grounds the community and provides a spiritual center.
  2. A diverse population: if these communities are simply places where wealthy, anglo people live sequestered life, they are only replacing the suburbs with another homogenous model in closer proximity. The diversity should not only be racial but economic as well. The community should represent the community.
  3. A sense of purpose: the last component reflects the sense that the community will exist for something beyond increased property values and restrictive covenants. It can become a place of hope and community service.
For decades the United Methodist Church did an amazing job at planting neighborhood churches and becoming the spiritual center of communities. With the rise of "new urbanism" it may have that opportunity again. I pray that we can find a way to make these communities one of the ten thousand doors!

Here is a video that shows the concept of "new urbanism."

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