Chat With The Author: Lynda Mac Gibbon
My Vertical NeighborhoodHow Strangers Became a Community
1. Please explain how your move from a small city to an urban high rise apartment prompted you to pursue a "vertical neighborhood."
When I moved to Toronto, the place God led me to live was a condominium on the 15th floor of a high-rise. I knew when I made the move that wherever I landed I wanted to pursue God’s great commandment to love my neighbors as I’d been pondering this commandment for some time. The move gave me opportunity to leave space in my life for meeting neighbors.
2. What discoveries surprised you about the reality of living in an urban, high rise?
I was surprised that people were actually friendly and open to friendships. As friendships formed, the ease of moving between each other’s homes (you can visit someone in your slippers!) facilitates this. You don’t have to drive across the city to visit someone; you can just take the stairs or elevator to another apartment. This makes invitations easier to extend because there’s less planning required in some ways.
3. Describe yourself. Are you an evangelist? What spiritual gifts does the Holy Spirit use in you to share the good news of Jesus?
I don’t believe I have the gift of evangelism – more likely encouragement and hospitality. I am committed to living my life opening and authentically as a follower of Jesus, so I think of my interactions with people more from the perspective of wanting to be obedient to God and also bear witness to the goodness of the life I have found in Jesus. I want people to experience that life and so I am happy to share my experiences.
4 How could your style of sharing your faith help others reimagine evangelism?
I think evangelism is a scary word – we see it often as a verb, as in I need to evangelize another person, which feels more transactional than relational. Choosing to approach people with the guide of loving them as neighbors leaves a wide space for all kinds of interactions and relationships to develop. It opens the door to many conversations about faith, God, life. In the past, when I have set out to try and be ‘evangelistic’ with people, I have often found the conversations stilted and awkward. There’s a lot more laughter in my conversations with people when I approach them with an inclination to love, rather than a determination to evangelize.
5. How do these everyday experiences help you reimagine evangelism?
- Asking a Question ... is absolutely at the core. If we are not curious about people we won’t get far in relationship with them.
- Making Gnocchi ... Food and hospitality are central to relationships. Both preparing it together and eating it together.
- Opening my door ... takes some courage to do this, especially with strangers. But it’s a good risk because it signals welcome to people.
- Brunch ... Again, food is central to relationship. A brunch, especially where everyone brings something, allows everyone to contribute. I think this is really important that it isn’t just me giving, but also me receiving.
- Dancing ... I love dancing, so accepting an invitation from a friend who might not follow Jesus to go dancing is relatively easy for me. I wonder if God helps with this, orchestrating some divine encounters that we are compelled towards simply because we enjoy the activity. It makes the encounter less fearful.
- Acquaintances ~ Friends ...There are stages of relationship; we go from strangers to acquaintances to friends. For followers of Jesus, as we live into loving neighbors (who are often strangers) our behavior will be more like friend than acquaintance. This perhaps marks as different from people who do not see the importance of loving neighbors.
- "Lord, why should I ... risk trying to love my neighbors?
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