Phin has spotted the major weakness of my new mission strategy - to have more parties - which is that we don't know our neighbours. We live fragmented lives; for many of us our homes are dorms we return to at night to sleep in, our lives are lived where we work. Increasingly, we even play on our own - solitary hours on gym machines fighting the signs of aging.
This is a parody, I appreciate - though I'm guessing it's not far from the truth for many of us and those who live on our streets.
I guess where I live, life is slightly more settled. People tend their gardens, wash their cars, walk their dogs. It's possible to see the same person regularly and hence actually meet them. My next door neighbour is good at parties - any excuse and she's cracking open bottles and inviting people to celebrate - and she gives me a clue to how it could be done.
Pick a date - say Halloween or bonfire night (in the UK) or kids starting school/university or changing jobs - run off a number of invites for your immediate neighbours (15 houses/flats in your street/block), say that you're having a party to celebrate whatever it is, everyone's welcome, bring a bottle. Obviously, we'd need to invest in some drink and nibbles - possibly even a BBQ and fireworks for bonfire night. Post the invites through people's doors and see what happens...
In some neighbourhoods it will at least start a conversation - neighbours might call round asking if we're serious, what they should bring, can they bring their children or a friend.
I think for it to work, we've got to be totally flexible - whatever our neighbours want to do, we ought to let them do (providing it's legal and doesn't endanger the lives of everyone there!). What we might find is that people really are looking for connection with other people, they really are isolated and would like to know their neighbours. If we achieve nothing else, we'll have created some social capital - and that's a result.
Sometimes I think Christians want to be religious all the time when what we need are people who'll model being human beings in a world that's lost the template. After all, Jesus came to renew us in our humanity, to restore what sin has left defaced and mangled. He was always at parties as far as I can tell, a nightmare for religious people, but a model of what it means to be a human being in the image of God to everyone else.
If anyone's tried this, let me know how it went. When I do it, I'll post the outcome...