We are simple expression of church beginning in the Southside of Providence, Rhode Island. We are an extended family that exists to take seriously the ancient words and mission of Jesus in a modern and changing world.
What makes us different is our approach to the word Church. We understand the historical movement of Jesus to be less about buildings and events to attend, institutions or rituals, or even products or services to consume – and more about a people to be, a process to undertake, a way to live.
We started when we began asking the simple (but deeply loaded and potentially dangerous!) question, "What is Church?"
The Neighborhood is our humble attempt to begin living out our answer to this question in our specific time and place. At its core, we are a network of home-based communities who are connected by a shared mission and vision, but are quite diverse in how we engage with each other and our surrounding communities.
Where and when do we gather?
We are often asked a simple question that we have a hard time answering. The question is "When and where does your church meet?"
This perfectly legitimate question assumes an understanding what the Church is and does that differs a bit from where we are currently exploring. In the West, a Church tends to be synonymous with a building that has a public gathering where a vast majority of the life of the church centers. So "where do you go to church?" makes perfect sense.
But in the New Testament's description of the Church as found in Acts and the various Epistles, the life of the church was much more complex than this. In fact, for the first 3 centuries, there were few, if any, public meeting places. Instead, you would find God's people gathered for prayer and worship in homes around meals (including the Lord's Supper), and actively involved in each other's lives throughout the week as extended family.
While the world of Ancient Rome is quite different, and certainly one reason why the smaller home-based expression of the Church was so popular was because Christianity was illegal, we believe this can still be a valid expression in the modern world and may even have some strong benefits to engaging an increasingly post-Christian world!
The Neighborhood's vision is to see a network of home-based communities established throughout the greater Providence area. Some communities are made up of established Christians, who might be gathering for worship, community, and discipleship. Others are made up of early disciples, seekers, and even skeptics, who might be examining the story and claims of Jesus together in an environment safe for wrestling with hard questions and doubts. Some communities have lots of young families with children, others are primarily filled with adults. Some communities are in Urban contexts, others are Suburban. Since each community has different needs and contexts, they also have the flexibility and freedom to shape and evolve their community life in a way that is most appropriate.
Because we all meet primarily in homes and can have such a wide difference, we do not publish our meeting locations and times publicly. If you are interested in connecting with an existing community (or even starting your own!), please contact us and let us know where you are located and what kind of atmosphere you are looking for.
Additionally, we do make an effort to get the communities all together in a more public-style fasion a few times a year, often to celebrate baptisms together and provide network-wide updates. These gatherings often have plenty of guests and visitors, and can be a great environment to get to know us more. For information on when our next all-church gathering might be, please contact us!
Why do we call ourselves The Neighborhood?
Our name was inspired by two sources:
First, in Matt 22:36-40, Jesus summarizes the law of the kingdom as "Love God" and "Love Neighbor". What great freedom! Our whole lives are summed up in learning how to love our God and those around us!
The second inspiration comes from the story of Roger Williams arriving in Providence, RI as he was fleeing religious persecution. He was met by a group of Narragansetts who greeted him with "What cheer, Netop?" which can be translated as "Hi, Neighbor!". You can still find this friendly memory emblazoned on our city seal, as it reminds our City of it's great legacy of diversity and religious freedom.
The name itself is also intentionally generic. We wanted a name that settles into the background, not drawing unnecessary attention to a brand. We are eager to become so embedded in our communities that we are seen as members of a locality who are also God's people.
What does the logo mean?
To match the sentiment behind the name, we took some time to settle on a logo. Our logo was created by a wonderful local artist and friend, Tony Jean-Baptiste. The goal was to embed a lot of meaning into something that felt generic and even a bit unbranded. The overall feel was inspired by ancient Christian symbology, which reminds us of our connection to historic and global Christianity, that we are only one small part of Jesus' movement. Below are the components of the logo broken down:
The Cross is both the center and hopefully the most noticeable aspect of the logo. In the same way, we hope that Jesus is both the center and most noticeable part of our Church. We are not interested in building the "brand" of The Neighborhood, but are very interested in seeing much be made of Jesus!
Another perspective of the logo is a circular table with four plates set. This represents our unity with each other as extended family. It also is a nod to our most common and favorite activity as a people – sharing meals! We believe the dinner table is our primary tool for discipleship and kingdom mission.
The negative space in the logo is intended to resemble a street map view of a neighborhood. This reminds us that our calling is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Each one of us lives in a particular time and place and each one of us has so much opportunity to love, serve and build relationships with those who live near us.
And obviously, there is an "N" overlaying the shapes, to represent the "Neighborhood".
Embedded into all of this is our threefold calling as Christians and the foundation of everything we do as a Church: Worship Jesus (Cross), Build Community (Table), Serve our Neighbors (Streets).