Denver Gem & Mineral

Taking neighboring to new heights


Faith community is providing the building blocks to turn strangers into neighbors



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April 27, 2011 | 10:22 AM
The art of neighboring is spreading.

By design, people are working to move from being strangers to being acquainted with their neighbors, then to having relationships. What sets the effort a bit apart from other programs designed to strengthen geographical neighborhoods is that these folks define "neighbor" as anyone who is around them.

Building Blocks: Rediscovering the Art of Neighboring is an initiative that began in Arvada in January 2010 with a group of 21 churches.

"A group of pastors realized we had one thing in common," said Dave Runyon, a teaching pastor at Foothills Community Church in Arvada. "All of us came together to dream about how we could do together what we couldn't do alone."

The group invited Arvada Mayor Bob Frie to share his vision for the city and asked him about the social issues that were obstacles to that vision.

"He talked about single moms, about elderly shut-ins, about other social issues in the community," Runyon said. "At the end, he said if we could just figure out how to be a community of great neighbors, we would have a huge impact on all of those issues."

The pastors talked about how to get people to be literal good neighbors, and they spread the word to other communities.

"The folks in Lakewood and Golden have really jumped in and taken this to a whole new level," he said. "The real key is that we've got civic leaders — Mayor Frie in Arvada, Mayor Bob Murphy in Lakewood, and Mayor Jacob Smith in Golden, and others in city government — who are fanning the flames for neighboring."

In May, 43 churches in the three communities will all embark on presenting a series of shared messages and video stories about people who have learned the art of neighboring during a three-week series of sermons and programs.

"The outcome we hope for is for people to determine who their neighbors are, what their responsibilities are to their neighbors, how we can carve out enough time to truly neighbor well, and how to throw a great neighborhood party," said Dan Thoemke. He is a member of the Together Church of Golden, a consortium of nine churches that work together on service to the community. He is helping lead the introduction of Rediscovering the Art of Neighboring in Golden. Runyon, Thoemke and Reg Cox of Lakewood have been taking the message to churches, city leaders and others, and working to raise funds for the effort.

Help for the last goal is available on the website created to promote the neighboring effort. A block party kit — complete with links to regulations for permits and applications in Arvada, Lakewood and Golden — is available on the site, http://buildingblocks.us.

By Labor Day, Thoemke said, the group hopes people will go to the website and flag their homes on the map to show their commitment to being a good neighbor and download the block party kit and plan a party.

"We just really believe that when people are in relationship with the people who live around them, great things happen," Runyon said. "This is about raising the bar on the value of neighboring across the city."

Art of Neighboring Project

Churches currently participating in the Rediscovering the Art of Neighboring Project:

Arvada

Abundant Life Community Church

Arvada Christian Church

Arvada Church of Christ

Arvada Church of God

Arvada Covenant Church

Arvada Presbyterian Church

Arvada United Methodist Church

Centerpoint Community Church

Centro Cristiano Amistad

Faith Bible Chapel

Faith Community Church

Foothills Community Church

Good News Christian Church

Grace Church of Arvada

Hallelujah Lutheran Church

King of Glory Lutheran Church

Living Grace Christian Fellowship

Mile High Vineyard

Northwest Community Church

Peace Lutheran

Pinebrooke Community Church

Shrine of St. Anne

Spirit of Christ in Arvada

St. Andrew Lutheran Church

The Rising

Trinity Presbyterian

Golden

Calvary Episcopal Church

Chapel in the Hills

Faith Lutheran Church

Golden First Baptist Church

Golden First Presbyterian Church

Golden First United Methodist Church

Hillside Community Church

Mesa View Church

World Faith Chapel International

Lakewood

Bear Valley Church

Church Alive

Faith Mountain

Forefront Church

Hope Crossing

Lakewood Church of Christ

Mountair Christian Church

Southwest First Assembly of God

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