New Urbanism, the movement that calls for interdependence among residents by promoting pedestrian-friendly streets, parks and town squares in neighborhoods where shops and homes coexist.
The values of New Urbanism, whose national leaders gathered in Pasadena last week, are consistent with those of Christianity and a possible antidote to the isolation experienced by many churches and Christians, Jacobsen said.
Suburban Sprawl and the Church
[After WWII, churches] adapted suburban development patterns, buying sizable plots of land, building a church and surrounding it with a surface parking lot. Churches then offered multiple programs to draw members, who drove to the site, leaving neighborhoods behind.Randy Frazee and Willow Creek
Sprawl makes it more difficult for churches to achieve their objectives, Bess said. For example, anyone who can't operate a vehicle, the young, old or disabled are disenfranchised, he said....
"Just as a matter of social justice it's arguably better to make mixed-use, walkable environments,' Bess said.
Jesus did much of his ministry in the context of everyday life. For instance, Jacobsen notes, in one Bible story Jesus was on his way to heal the daughter of a synagogue ruler named Jarius, when a sick woman touched his cloak and was healed.
The woman may not have been noticed by today's ministers, Jacobsen said.
"She's not going to call for an appointment,' he said.
Nationally, Randy Frazee is among leaders who favor New Urbanism. Frazee is a teaching pastor at Willow Creek Community Church, a trend-setting Illinois mega-church attended by more than 20,000 people.
Mega-churches have become like castles surrounded by moats, Frazee said. The drawbridge is lowered a few times a year to let people in, where they become a subculture separate from the outside world.
"You have to disengage from your community to be involved in the church,' Frazee said, describing the problem. "Now the church has become irrelevant to the community.'
Frazee said Willow Creek is changing so members spend less time on campus and more in their communities. The push for integrating the values of New Urbanism will include the 10,500 churches in the Willow Creek Association, which links smaller congregations that share the mega-church's philosophy of ministry, Frazee said.
Interesting ideas. To be honest, I'm so used to suburban sprawl and having strangers for neighbors, when Willow kicked off it's new neighborhood plan it kind of freaked me out! I haven't gone to a single one of the local Elgin get togethers. Maybe this summer I'll finally check it out.