When Good Neighbours Become Good Friends
Vicki Cavolina and Ellie Jolliffe are starting something new down in Greenwich. Here, they tell us why...
We started a connect group to make us better neighbours. Cities are wonderful places full of interesting people – but we were tired of seeing these people from a distance and making superficial connections on a Sunday. Cities become communities, and friends become family when people live life around each other – so that’s what we’re aiming for.
Tuesday evenings usually involve a flurry of Whatsapp messages checking what everyone fancies for dinner; what should be on the table that we share together.
We’re not all that fussy about what that table is like, or whether we can fit around it. We’ll sit on the floor if we have to.
Like a travelling troupe we rotate whose home we visit, most showing up a little exhausted from work, a little grateful for company and good conversation.
We make tea, take shoes off, throw bread in the oven, sometimes pour wine. We rummage for plates and the doorbell interrupts us.
We eat together, catching up on the events of the week, what happened with the work deadline, how that family member has been, perhaps what we’re planning to do on holiday. Someone inevitably confesses a story of how they’d ended up in an embarrassing or awkward situation whilst trying to ‘have it all together’, and so we laugh along in mutual recognition that our lives are never quite as tidy as we hope.
Then we pull out the Bibles, the dog-eared pages we’ve carried around with us or the somewhat more convenient versions on our phones, and we read a chapter together, speaking aloud to help us pay attention.
Talking follows, usually some questions about what we think is happening in what we’ve read, what the context might be, how the original audience would have understood what the verses said about God, what this might mean for us. We go back and forth, wondering and thinking, sharing our confusion, marvelling at the majesty woven through those words.
Sometimes we share communion, bread and wine passed around, symbols to remind us where we’ve come from, who we are, and where we are going. A physical act to remember again the freedom that is the Gospel story.
And then we’ll pray, together our voices thanking God for what we have, asking that we would learn to live in accordance with what we believe. We ask God to help us, intervene in the challenges that we face, worries that are a burden, questions that we hold. Together we pray, hoping for God’s best for one another, lending strength and faith as we all lean in together.
At some point shoes are put back on, and people make for the door, making plans for the week and when we might see each other again.
Slowly we are getting to know each other’s lives and learning to remove the masks of ‘fine thanks, busy!’ that most Londoners seem to wear. Slow miracles and long friendships are taking shape at shared tables on mismatched chairs; and in the middle of busy weeks we are learning to take a breath, to pray, to laugh, to dwell in the moment.
Hebrews 10:23-35 speaks of holding unswervingly to the hope we profess in Jesus, that followers and seekers of His way are to to spur one another on in love and good deeds in light of that hope, and to keep meeting together to speak courage that we might live that out. Tuesday nights are simple, powerful, spurring us on week by week.
Our dream is for this to be a group of neighbours, growing in faith and love over time, holding space for new faces to come and old ones to move on – but with shared homes, shared lives and shared tables, finding ourselves rooted in the God and City that we love.
If you’re looking for a community in the Greenwich area, Vicki and Ellie would love to meet you. You can check out the South East Neighbours group here.