It’s been a long time since I last posted my thoughts here.  Most of my written thoughts have been expressed on Facebook – more response there, and opportunities to compare my thinking with others.  However, I feel an obligation to continue this story of Neighbors Gatherings.  That story must include why the gatherings in North Port, FL ceased, and why I believe they didn’t continue.  And, of course, why my dream of starting a movement such that a global network of gatherings could come into being didn’t happen.

When Terry and I moved from Florida we were hoping to take Neighbors Gathering on the road with us.  But, in the six weeks of travel before arriving in Washington, we received several discouraging emails from neighbors.  I was amazed at how quickly what we had put together in our home, came apart. The gatherings became ungathered – although there were hints of problems before we left. Three in particular:

  1. No “home base”.  Although several neighbors had volunteered to hold gatherings in their homes occasionally, no one was willing to open their home on a regular basis.  Our home was recognized as what some called, the “club house”.  (What the gathering was or how to label it was always a problem for some.)  But, without a default location to gather at, there was no physical center.  “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold.” (Yeats).
  2. Rules were created.  One of those “rules” had to do with how often gatherings should occur.  It was decided that, rather than simply relying on the invitation of a neighbor opening their home to a gathering, meetings were to be held monthly.  And of course, rules were created because certain neighbors had a desire to be in control.  Rules and rulers develop together plus someone wanting to enforce the rules.
  3. Internal division.  A person began attending who was intensely disliked by another neighbor (the same person encouraging the creation of rules). It didn’t take long for an infection of disaffection to spread and shunning to occur.  Eventually the person was accused of  breaking a rule (taking a picture and publishing on FB) and was told to stop coming to gatherings.
So that happened.  Which raised the question in my mind whether the gatherings would have continued if we hadn’t left.  Were the gatherings ego-centered? Was I the center? Were they  dependent upon me?  And, if so, would I want to start again gathering neighbors in other places?
My wife and I started a “home church” in Wyoming several years before we moved to Florida and had walked away from it, because I could see how it was becoming institutionalized and dependent upon me to be the ‘pastor’ (I’m not a fan of the clergy/laity system). Plus, I could see potential problems ahead as my theology began changing radically.  I didn’t want to do that again.
How could I encourage neighbors to gather with other neighbors if I really didn’t believe their efforts would be rewarded (and it takes a lot of effort and commitment)?  If I wasn’t willing to be an example, practicing what I preached?  Better, I decided, to figure some things out – like, can neighbors really learn to get along with other neighbors?  Is the vision I have for an egalitarian, non-hierarchical (anarchic), peaceful world a pipe dream? Maybe … but maybe not.
More to come …

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