In a simpler place and time folks sat on the front porch and did, well, nothing. The evening’s pastime was to sit together and watch the world go by. In the last 60 years the trend on porching has been down. Lately the curve is looking up. (Of course, if you’re the kind of person who uses the words like “trend” and “curve” then porching may not be for you.)
After splitting the first 40 years of my life between Chicago, Dallas and Washington, D.C. I was unacquainted with the fine art of hanging out. The rhythms of city and suburban life are reggae-rock: schedules, rush hours, play-dates and alarm clocks loomed large and imposed themselves on my life. I remember one stressful day which was scheduled to end with a small group discipleship meeting. I had to cover 20 miles in 25 minutes through cross-town traffic. When I pulled up to the meeting (ten minutes late), the brakes on my car were smoking--the brakes, mind you. That night we were probably discussing something deeply spiritual, perhaps “finding peace with Jesus.”
When a five-year effort toward church-planting crashed and burned, our family ended up in rural Kentucky. Imagine: a smart-ass Yankee Chicago know-it-all sitting on a front porch. I keep looking at my watch, waiting for someone to get the meeting started. It took me two years to discover if someone has to call the meeting to order, you’re not porching.
My Kentucky sojourn has taught me although we talk about the value of community as an expression of God’s Kingdom, we frequently settle for the shadow instead of the reality. We drive 30 minutes each way to attend a 90-minute meeting; we don’t have time to stay and listen to one another; we have to pick up the kids from the sitter.
What if community means your neighbors? Actually the porch is optional. The key is to exchange the reggae-rock rhythm for the sound of crickets, the ice melting in your glass, the pace of the setting sun. What if sunrise and sunset are enough to tell time? What if we gathered around something other than a curriculum? In my opinion everyone needs a place to porch.