Dixie Darr

Sit a Spell

In Church, Denver, neighborhood on July 13, 2017 at 9:04 am

Every other week a small group from my church gets together to talk about current events. This summer, the gathering moved from the church to the parsonage front porch.

Yes, my church still has a parsonage, right next door, which makes the pastor’s commute to work about 30 seconds. The house, built in 1915, sits on a busy street in one of Denver’s most popular neighborhoods and features an iconic wraparound porch.

Our discussions have become more like casual chats, as we sit there and watch people come and go from the pizza place across the alley as well as neighbors out for an evening stroll.

That’s what front porches are for.

Almost uniquely American, porches emerged in the mid-1800s as cities grew and people started living in single family homes. Backyards still contained outhouses, trash heaps, and vegetable gardens, so front porches became the place for families to relax in the evening, catch a breeze, and get to know their neighbors.

In the 1950s outhouses disappeared and television captured the family’s attention inside. Air conditioning and computers led us increasingly to forsake the front porch. Today, while still popular house features (53% of new homes have front porches ), they are typically only decoration, rarely used as intended.

In some ways, I suppose, that makes our pastor a throwback because he loves and uses the parsonage porch. It gives him a unique eye on the neighborhood he serves and lets him get to know people who might not otherwise come to our church.

When I did a google search for front porches, I was astonished to find that the first several pages listed only commercial entities with the name Front Porch, from bars and cafes to realtors and newspapers. The name suggests a relaxed ambiance from a bygone era. Eventually, I found a series, Summer on the Porch, on NPR exploring the role of the front porch.

I also discovered a quotation from the famous fan dancer, Sally Rand, who said, “I’m not the type to sit on the porch and watch life go by.”

We like sitting on the porch and being a part of the life going by.

Y’all come back now, y’hear?


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