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DYK - Won't you be my neighbor?

Posted: November 24 2019 at 07:39 PM
Author: Rev. Arlene Christopherson


I did not grow up with Mister Rogers' Neighborhood but I’ve known the theme song for as long as I can remember, “won’t you be my neighbor?” The release of the movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” caught my eye when the promotions said it starred Tom Hanks and Matthew Rhys. I was even more intrigued when I learned that Sony Pictures had invited our own United Methodist Discipleship Ministries to write the faith-based study guide that accompanies the movie.

It’s exciting to see The United Methodist Church playing a key role in providing tools to engage this story.
Fred Rogers was an ordained Presbyterian Minister. He focused much of his ministry on the PBS television show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. The theme of the long-running television show centered on the emotional and moral health of pre-school children. He taught about civility, tolerance, sharing, and self-worth. He tackled topics such as death, sibling rivalry, moving, and divorce. A special episode even dealt with the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy a few days after the tragedy occurred.

In a statement from the Author, Claudia Black said: “The film ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ is a moving, poignant, and powerful movie. A young journalist, Lloyd, is given the assignment of interviewing Mister Rogers for Esquire Magazine, Mister Rogers’ way of life has a profound effect on Lloyd, who is living out the outcomes of being raised with the trauma of an addictive family. Without having to show much of his early childhood, the movie depicts the consequences resulting in this man’s anger, cynicism, negativity, and the impact it has in every aspect of his life. Lloyd’s anger is no match for the deep source of love that emanates from Mister Rogers. The implied simplicity of Mister Rogers’ life is only the backdrop for the power of love, truth, and a willingness to feel.” 

In an increasingly polarized world where relationships are broken, feelings of anger and division drive us to extremism and harm, the theme of Mister Rogers’ message is as relevant today for all of us as it was in the 1980s for young children. 

During the Northern Illinois Conference Special Session on November 16, Bishop Sally Dyck said: “when you find yourselves as clergy and laity in different positions, go deeper into a conversation with a sister or brother so as to seek to understand as much as you seek to be understood. When one is suffering or weeping from the burden of this disagreement, we weep together; but when one is rejoicing in being who God has created them to be – actually each and every one of us – we rejoice together.”

Mr. Rogers had a formula for this work of building emotional and moral health, of creating relationships that respect differences. You can find a flow chart for this work in the UM Study Guide. We are encouraged to (1) Learn more, (2) Create a safe space to explore thoughts and feelings, (3) Reflect internally and process emotions, (4) Discover the roots behind any difficult feelings, (4) Engage with the world and make it a better place, then start all over again, learning more. 

The concept of applying a childlike approach to our complicated adult conflicts and differences may seem oversimplified, but the consequences of our increasing polarization are monumental.

Join with others over the next few months in watching the movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” and working through the study guide from Discipleship Ministries so we too can take a step toward living out Christ’s vision of understanding and acceptance. To download the study guide, go to

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