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' proclaim the year of the Lord's favour...'

In a quiet Northampton street seven adults and five children live in five adjoining terraced houses. Appropriately the group calls itself 'The Neighbours', a community of households; their inspiration the early church and Christian communities down the years that offered an alternative to individualism and materialism.

Living next to each other enables members of the community - all lay - to meet daily for prayer, socially and to share some things in common. A communal garden formed by knocking down four garden fences provides a wonderful place for recreation and play. There is a meeting room and a much used utility room. Some possessions may be shared - a car or lawn mower. A common purse funds community events and joint activities. The sustaining vision has been a lifestyle which enables all to pray together daily, to do some things together and to support each other. 'The sort of community that could happen anywhere.'

Members come from a number of denominational backgrounds - Roman Catholic, Quaker, Anglican. They worship at local churches in addition to their community prayer and worship. Members are involved in a variety of activities - as a mental health nurse and a physiotherapist, running a cooperative food business, working for church unity, organising 'days of stillness'. Their common life enables sharing and support and also welcome to others, who come often to share in the life of the community.

This community and others challenge what sociologists call the 'little box' pattern where each household has its own front door, perhaps garden, and may be quite separate from the adjoining one. In such little boxes it is possible not even to know who lives next door. In today's world with its diminishing resources Christians are challenged to witness to a new and more distinctive way of living and sharing.

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