A few years ago, some guys in the Pacific Northwest whom I’d never met invited me to come out and spend a few days with them, traveling from city to city down the West Coast, having conversations about the importance of place. I’d just published The Wisdom of Stability and was glad for the chance to share what I’d learned from monastics and attention science about the importance of place.
But by the time we got to the third or forth stop, I began to notice something: this wasn’t a new conversation for the folks who gathered. What’s more, they all shared a sense of place. “The Parish Collective” they called themselves in Seattle and Tacoma, Portland and Vancouver. Here were Christians coming together not around a charismatic leader or an ideological agenda but the common conviction that God was up to something in their place. Right where they live. Here on earth as it is in heaven.
I came home praying their tribe would increase.
And I was delighted to hear that Paul, Tim, and Dwight have written this book out of their experience together. They say it best:
For several years the three of us have been connecting with churches rooted in the neighborhood. Everywhere we go, we find the Spirit working miracles of transformation through their shared life together in the parish. The consistent storyline is so encouraging. When these faith communities begin connecting together, in and for their neighborhood, they learn to depend on God for strength to love, forgive and show grace like never before. We’ve also been inspired by the way these groups reach outward in love and care toward the neighborhood at large. The gospel becomes so much more tangible and compelling when the local church is actually a part of the community, connected to the struggles of the people and even the land itself.It can be easy to miss what holds this together. By crafting a life together in a definable place, the parish becomes a platform for a whole new way of being the church. When the word parish is used in this book it refers to all the relationships (including the land) where the local church lives out its faith together. It is a unique word that recalls a geography large enough to live life together (live, work, play, etc.) and small enough to be known as a character within it.
Parish is also unique because it is a noun that holds within it a verb. It is a noun in the sense that it represents the church’s everyday life and relationships within a particular place. But it also functions as an action word because it calls us to the telos, or purpose, of the church—living out God’s dream and caring for the place we are called. Proximity in the parish allows you to participate in God’s reconciling and renewing vision in ways you really can’t do as an individual. We are convinced that what may seem at first like a subtle shift actually has the capacity to transform your entire experience of what it means to be the church.