Are We Really So Different?

Posted: February 29, 2012 in church, Grace Capital Church, People, post-christian, Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

It happened to me this past Sunday.  I met a new guy in our church who told me that he and his family had just moved here to New Hampshire from Iowa.  Since my wife is from Nebraska, we talked a little about farms and the Midwest and the Cornhuskers.  Then the big question…how do you like New England?  His answer didn’t surprise me.  “To be honest, the people here are really different.” And he wasn’t just referring to the amount of Dunkin Donuts coffee we drink!

Are we really so different in New England?  After all, people are the same everywhere right?  The same needs, challenges, desires, opportunities and attitudes…right?  Maybe not.  New England is a unique region of the country and if there’s one statistic that can prove that out, it’s in the area of church attendance and how many people identify themselves as Christians.  In fact, a huge percentage of people in New England would fall into the category of non-religious.  Spiritual maybe, but non-religious. 

I was reminded by a wise woman today that the thing that sets our region apart from many other places in the country is that we are still here.  Unlike the pioneers and early-adopters that moved West, our forefathers didn’t budge.  This is as good as it gets.  No need to change.  Maybe that’s why we have such an aging population in places like Vermont and Maine and New Hampshire.  The younger generation is out of here, looking for new opportunity and experience.

Several years ago, I invited a neighbor to church.  His response stunned me, telling me no and asking me not to talk to him about it again.  He was fine.  “All set,” were his exact words.  As a typical New Englander, in his mind I was intruding into places that were private.

I have spoken to friends and others outside of New England that don’t really get it.  They believe that people are people, and New Englanders are no different than Southerners or Left Coasters.  While it is true that we all need Jesus and we all need community, how you go about relating to folks from my neck of the woods is a world apart from how you relate to someone from Dallas (bless your heart) or LA (hey dude). In my opinion the difference requires an investment in the person that cannot be merely casual or temporary.  This costs something that many of us are not willing to spend- our time, our friendship, our trust, and our love.

The neighbor I talked about…well 15 years later, he and his family are a part of our church, they love Jesus and they are serving others.  But first we had to love them and serve them with no strings attached.  Are New Englanders really that different?  What do you think?

-Peter

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Comments
  1. Short answer, yes. I moved from Montreal to Lebanon, NH where I lived for 18 months. It almost killed me — I’d never been so lonely anywhere, and I’ve travelled alone around the world and lived in five countries. You can indeed move to a place where you simply do not fit the “norm” and people can’t seem to appreciate who you are. We were not married or pregnant or wanting kids — and all the women around me did. Period. So there were no other commonalities people were willing to seek out in me. I moved to NY and have been much happier in a place filled with diversity and acceptance of it. Sorry!

    • pbonanno says:

      Hope things are going better for you in NY. Your challenges remind me that this is why the church should be the one community where we can reach out regardless of our differences. Jesus brings us together. There’s a verse that says “He sets the lonely in families.”

  2. Megan says:

    Being a born and raised SoCal Girl who has lived in NH for almost 2 years….I would say that yes, people are different here, not worse or better, just different. But I’ve realized that all the regions of the country have their own personalities, each with their strengths and weaknesses. People are different everywhere. But we are all the same in our need for Jesus. It just may take more time in NH to break down the walls of hearts before people see their need.

  3. FC says:

    I had the pleasure to visit with some christian folks in south Arkansas last year. My first stop from the airport was the local Olive Garden in Little Rock. As we sat waiting for our meal … I observed something quite remarkable. Nearly every single table and person in that place openly bowed their heads, many joining hands (even waitress’ joining in) blessing their meals! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, my friend didn’t understand ” why was I so surprised by this?” I explained public prayer, of any sort, in NE although not unheard of, was more the exception; he explained in the South it was the rule. As I traveled further south, I noticed there was smaller sized churches almost on every corner (or every few fields). Everyone I met was so warm, many strangers blessed me. I couldn’t help but feel as if I had known them my whole life. On Sunday the church we attended held what they called a “feed” in my honor! Get out of here! A feed? for me? (in case anyone’s wondering a “feed” translated in NE terms basically means a cookout) Every single person in the church, including kids, went out of their way to shake my hand! I spent most of my life here in NE, I never gave it much thought prior, but now I know, though we all have the same need for Jesus, New Englander’s are truly different.

  4. We moved here from Seattle just this past September and have found the people here extremely open. Open to not only conversation but to the Gospel. I believe wholeheartedly that something is happening in New England and things are changing since we lived here (in NYC) 10 years ago. Everywhere we go we find conversation with folks and sometimes that is all it takes.

  5. Melissa Neveu says:

    People in New England are very different, but I don’t see it as a bad thing. I grew up in GA and at age 15 found myself (Mormon raised) in a Baptist church with a friend. After going for a few months, accepted Jesus and was on fire for the Lord, and sadly what I quickly found was that those around me were not. Tho everyone went to church, not many were actually “real”, if you know what I mean. They attended church twice on Sunday and on Wednesday night, but only did so out of tradition and because “that’s just what you do”; it was a place to hang out with friends and it almost guarenteed a meal at Golden Coral or Waffle House. I have now lived in NH for almost 10 years with my amazing husband and I have found that the general population is in a hurry, don’t have time to talk or make eye contact for that matter, but the one’s that are attending “church” , most are whole heartedly serving the Lord! And, that most people actually listen when you do forge a relationship with them with no strings attached. It was amazing to me to see so many people on Sunday, have the same heart for God on Wednesday morning… I wasn’t so strange and different afterall! I love to go to GA to visit, but for now, NH is Home, and God has BIG plans for this region!

    Melissa

  6. wayne says:

    i know i’m late to this conversation but here goes anyway: when i moved to Kansas City last year from NH i would encounter people on the job daily and at first because they were so nice i was taken aback “why this person being so nice to me?” “that was strange” “what does he/she want?” until it kept happening again and again and again and i finally realized that people were just plain nice and friendly to strangers out here. it was so endearing.

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