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For more than a year, 20 Catholic and Protestant pastors in Denver have been partnering in an outreach program designed to encourage their congregations to take the commandment to “love your neighbor” as seriously as possible, according to the Denver Post.

The program, named Building Blocks, has consisted of a series of 21 guest sermons throughout the year taught by the various pastors in the initiative, most of whom are located in the northwest areas of metropolitan Denver. The pastors preached their final sermons in the series on Sunday.

Throughout the program, participating congregations have been challenged to get to know eight households near their homes. Pastors have called on them to start learning names, look for opportunities to be helpful, and gather at least once during the summer for a block party. They have also challenged them to embrace the messiness of relationships.

Interestingly, the program started during a conversation between the 20 pastors involved and Bob Frie, the mayor of Arvada, Co., located outside northwest Denver. Asked what was keeping their city from improving, Frie told the pastors that many of the social ills in the city—from elderly shut-ins to troubled teens to struggling single moms—could be helped if people would just be good neighbors.

"He answered innocently enough. But it was really embarrassing—and also this sacred, beautiful moment," said Foothills Community Church pastor Dave Runyon. "It really galvanized us. Sometimes we forget our neighbor is our neighbor."

Runyon said the participating churches have some 16,000 people who potentially could each reach out to eight households near them. Even by conservative estimates, he said, it could mean reaching 60,000 to 150,000 people. [denverpost.com, 4/25/10]

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