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The front porch is back. A growing number of buyers are asking for designs that include the iconic hometown amenity, according to Chicago Tribune interviews with building contractors. Front porches provide families and friends with a place to gather while they keep an eye on the kids. By facilitating small talk, they build local community. And local community is no small accomplishment with so many reasons to stay inside and watch television, surf the Web, or play video games. The front porch's comeback suggests that some people have found no suitable substitute for knowing their neighbors.

If the latest figures on geographic mobility are any indication, we would be wise to make nice with those neighbors. Despite commercial air travel, interstate highways, mobile phones, and e-mail, the mobility rate has declined steadily since the U.S. Census Bureau began tracking such data in 1948. In the aftermath of World War II, as suburbs began sprouting from farmland, a record 21.2 percent of Americans moved between 1950 and 1951. But only 13.2 percent of Americans moved between 2006 and 2007. Then in April 2009, the Census Bureau reported that a mere 11.9 percent of Americans moved in 2008. This rate was the lowest in recorded U.S. history, and the 1.3 percent drop between 2007 and 2008 was the second-largest one-year decline. The number rebounded only barely in 2009, to 12.5 percent.

With more Americans than ever staying put, I visited three churches—one urban, one suburban, and one rural—to see how the body of Christ is loving where its members live.

Urban Enthusiasts

Approaching Chicago's old Cabrini-Green neighborhood, Salvation Army resale shops and storefront Pentecostal churches gradually give way to upscale bars and ...

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July 2010

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