This is the historic front porch of the Lutheran House at the Chautauqua Institution. Lutherans have been a part of the Institution for 125 years and in that current building for 90 years. There's something interesting about every home, apartment house or inn at Chautauqua. Each and every one of them has a porch.
While I was chaplain there last week, I was encouraged to occasionally just sit on the porch. Inevitably people would walk by on their way to a lecture or some other event. Conversation would ensue, even if it was just an exchange of greetings. We don't see as many homes with front porches anymore. More often we see back porches or decks where we can escape into our own little worlds.
I have been doing some reading about this phenomena and its impact on community and sharing the gospel with our neighbors. In a conversation with Jake Jacobson, an assistant to the bishop of the Northwest PA Synod, I first heard the term, "porchin.'" He has written a workbook about reaching our neighbors entitled Front Porchin': (Making Disciples and Forming Faith in Exile). It is a very practical guide for reaching out to our neighbors with the God news of Jesus Christ. In it he writes:
For the past 25 years I have been discovering one of the benefits of small town living is that of the front porch. It is not only a vantage from which to watch the world go by but it is also a place of interaction with that same world. In a world where the front porch has been replaced by the secluded deck (I have both!) I would like to offer the metaphor of the front porch as a particular style of doing outreach in the name of Jesus Christ in the world in which we live.So what do we do if we do not have a front porch? I am not suggesting we all run out and get materials to build porches. There are other places that can have the same kind of meaning and impact as the front porch. It can be any place people gather and talk together. For some it is the coffee shop down the street. For others it may be the grocery store. What is important is creating community. If we keep our eyes and hearts open, we will find this happening virtually anywhere.
Porchin' as a way to reach out to others with the good news involves our story of what God has done in our lives, God's story [as revealed in scripture] and others' stories. How do they overlap and intersect? Ultimately, we want God's story to be an integral part of everyone's stories. As we are all out and about this summer, let's look for opportunities God is presenting to us. Don't be afraid to offer prayer for those in distress. People are often more open to God than we may think.