One consolation in the midst of tragedy is the way neighbors come together to help each other. I was reminded of this while watching news footage of Hurricane Sandy this fall. When the worst occurs, we want to do whatever we can to help our neighbors, be they next door or a world away. We give blood. We pack relief-supply kits. We offer up money and time. We pray.
It’s easy to think that our theological bent makes us especially suited to responding to the needs of our neighbors, but we may be just as susceptible to common barriers to “neighborliness” as others are. In his book Stories Jesus Still Tells, John Claypool relays the story of a seminary professor who enlisted the help of his students for an experiment. The professor told one group of students they had 15 minutes to reach the other side of campus or their grades would be docked; a second group had 45 minutes to make the trip; and a third group had three hours. Dotted along the designated route were drama students acting out situations of great need: one was wailing, head in hands; one was lying face-down, as if unconscious; another was shaking and trembling violently.
What did the ministers-in-training do? Not one of the first group and only two of the second group stopped to help, but—free from the pressures of the ticking clock and the threat of a performance downgrade—everyone in the third group stopped to render aid. While we may no longer worry about grades, demands on our time that we must balance with our call to community never go away.
This issue of Connection is all about the ties that bind us as neighbors and the barriers that threaten those bonds. We begin with a new take on an old question—Who is my neighbor?—and expand the discussion from there. How can we be better neighbors, serving others in good times and bad? What struggles or divisions hold us back from being good neighbors? What roles do the church and various ministries play in a neighborhood?
We explore these issues with insight from faculty members and alumni who are living into these questions—and of course, we include news from our neighborhood on Emory’s campus in Atlanta and from the extended neighborhood made up of Candler alumni all over the world. May it inspire in us a renewed call to neighborliness!
Grace and peace,
Dean and Professor of Christianity and World Politics
Jan Love enjoys visiting her mother’s neighborhood in Fairhope, Alabama, overlooking the Mobile Bay. It’s marked by old oaks, tall pines, quiet streets, and—remarkably—neighbors who actually know each other.