The Neighborhood Liturgies


We Are Block Party Priests

One of my favorite childhood memories, long before I understood why we gathered is the annual summer block party in my hometown. We had bounce houses, elephant ears, 80's hair metal cover bands and when the sun went down we all watched as fireworks graced the sky. I can still feel the grass in my toes and cold popsicle melting over my hand. Aside from holidays and my birthday it was the first tradition that I remember gathering as a tribe, a people.

There was something very spiritual happening when we gathered. It's where I learned that fried chicken and iced tea were neighborhood sacraments. It's safe to say that the space between heaven and earth was very thin. Times were simple and loving my neighbor was easy.

Eventually, my family started attending a local Pentecostal church. As time went on that neighborly feeling began to be a little more manipulative. We wouldn't just be a part of the neighborhood but we had to try and convert the neighborhood. Loving my neighbor no longer had anything to do with being present and alive as a people. It became more about presuppositional apologetics, attending church sanctioned block parties to evangelize folks and knock off hallmark holiday events. Aside from a "prayer station" there was always an agenda to get them into our church. That's not truly loving our neighbors.

Love has no conditions and I had to leave that behind.

I read the gospels and saw how Jesus was always attending parties and being present with people. Not so he could invite them to the temple but, to invite them to be human. He subverted the system just by being neighborly. He cared about Peter's mother in law and healed her. He stood with a woman accused of adultery. Jesus even cared for such an insignificant thing as wine at a wedding.

Jesus was a block party priest.

Most of Jesus' best miracles and most touching moments happened in the context of a party. He sat at the table with anyone and enjoyed a good meal and drink. Whenever people gathered Jesus was right there in the heart of it. We should be the same.

In my neighborhood it wasn't my dad who taught me to ride my bike it was the neighbor kid. It didn't matter whose kid it was, all the parents collectively took care of scraped knees. We always knew that everyone was loved and cared for and at the end of the day we had each other. Jesus was this kind of neighbor. We too can be block party priests! A priest in it's most basic function is somebody who makes sacrifices on behalf of others and performs religious rites. Self sacrificial love is laid on the alter of our streets. For us, we perform the religious rite of saying grace together and giving grace to each other. It's who we are. 

May we all grow in faith, hope and love and may the greatest of these be love. Amen.

-Charlie P.

Charles PorterComment