In Defense of Suburban Living (part 3)

The suburbs are really little cities, and in my last essay, I explained how my town really is an idea with at least three elements. The first is its historic element; in my case, my town, Old Sewell, was once a little town, with a mayor, I’d guess, and a unique identity.

No longer. Old Sewell is now just a few streets with what was once a downtown, but now only has a few shops, and nothing more. It has been engulfed in the larger municipality known as Mantua Township.

But rising out of the ashes of Old Sewell is the Mighty Sewell Post Office, which has lent the name of Sewell to lots of other little towns in the municipality of Washington Township due to a dispute over naming rights that goes back more than a hundred years. This is the second element of the “idea of Sewell.”

The last element gets to the point of the series, namely: making a defense of suburban living.

It is this truth: as far as I’ve been able to tell, Sewell is made of what most people would call neighborhoods, subdivisions, or developments. There are between twenty to fifty of these, depending on how you count them.

But where others see neighborhoods, I see cities. In fact, I call them little cities. Continue reading

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In Defense of Suburban Living (part 2)

The suburbs as an idea have taken a beating over the years. Which is ironic; in a society where sin and transgression have all but been eliminated from our cultural lexicon, we certainly haven’t eliminated the Ten Commandments, we’ve just altered them a bit.

Here are five that come to mind: 1) Thou shalt not hurt little children; 2) Thou shalt not poison the environment; 3) Believe whatever you want (as long as it doesn’t affect me); 4) Thou shalt worry and fuss about baby animals (but not about little human beings called fetuses); and of course: 5) Thou shalt not live in the suburbs.

Last time I posted on this subject, I made the point that density, proximity to work and employment, and dependence upon the automobile don’t by themselves make a place bad, or disadvantageous. They are factors of city, but not necessarily negative ones. Continue reading

In defense of suburban living (part 1)

As a church planter, I am responsible for organizing a new congregation. In fact, my actual title is “organizing pastor,” and that includes more than just preaching on Sundays.

One area in which I’ve had to pursue competency and skill is that of “understanding my context,” sometimes described as “knowing my mission field.” That is, knowing and understanding the place in which I have been called to organize a new congregation is an important skill.

My place is a classic expression of the suburbs. (In fact, I’ve been told that the entire state of New Jersey can be classified as suburban, though driving through some parts of the Pine Barrens would cause even the most rigid statistician to question that designation.)

Which raises the question: what are the suburbs? Continue reading