by Jim Wehner
When I interviewed with FCS eight years ago, I asked Bob Lupton if FCS required its staff to move into the neighborhood? After moving twice for ministry positions in the past, my wife Jolyn wanted to know if we were doing it again. We were already established in our current neighborhood of five years, and she wanted time in the position before we relocated again. She knows me well and keeps me grounded!
Bob told me, “Moving is not a job requirement. About half the staff move into the neighborhood. We want you to be sure about your calling to the neighborhood before you move in.” Then he added with a smile, “Of course, it is difficult to be around the staff at FCS and not want to move into the neighborhood. It is where all the good things are happening.”
He was right. During my time at FCS, I have been drawn to the work happening in the neighborhood. The simple acts of playing in the annual neighborhood kickball tournament or participating in the Treat Street event at Halloween have nurtured the desire to be more present. I have been aching to move for years, and this past spring, the time was right.
After eight years with FCS, our family made the transition into our focus neighborhood. The move has been a huge blessing to me, something I’ve been excited about for a while. I see new adventure. For years, I have been traveling downtown to engage with the neighborhood, so for me, relocating was like coming home.
But the transition has been more difficult for my family. Jolyn was faithfully engaged in our north Atlanta community, so moving for her felt more like leaving home. It is difficult to soften those emotions, especially when we were awaked by automatic gunfire our second night in the new house. Not a familiar sound from our last neighborhood.
So I am sitting in a room full of boxes. There’s an assembled futon, desk, and computer. A shelf holds what is left of my personal library after I gave away half of my books in preparation for the move. Losses in the midst of change - including neighbors, familiar streets, and books - are painful. We honor the grief of transition, and we know it will take time for each of us to feel at home in this new place.
In the same way, it will take time to join the rhythm of South Atlanta. Many have asked how we plan to get involved in the neighborhood. Our answer comes from the experience of many staff at FCS: we will go slow. We will be intentional to acknowledge, wave to, and greet our neighbors. We will try to be visible on our block, and we will pay attention what is happening.
But we will not jump into leadership. We will not rush into positions known in the neighborhood. We will seek to support initiatives and leaders already in place. We are not in a rush because neighboring is not quick work. This is our new home, and we are glad to be here.