“Of all the memberships we identify ourselves by the one thing that is most forgotten, and that has the greatest potential for healing, is place. We must learn to know, love, and join our place even more than we love our own ideas. People who can agree that they share a commitment to the landscape/cityscape — even if they are otherwise locked in struggle with each other — have at least one deep thing to share.”

– Gary Snyder

A friend of mine was recently expressing his gratitude at having found a wonderful pub where “everyone knows his name.” No, his name is not Norm. But everyone knows his name. It is a place where he can relax, get to know the local folks, and become a part of something bigger. He is working away from home for the summer. He misses his wife. So he comes to this “third place,” a place that is neither work nor home.

For many of us, church is like a third place. It is a place where many know our names (and they’re always glad you came!) My dream is that the church be much like the Irish pub- a place infused with staid traditions as well as lighthearted fun. These older pubs are community institutions, holding spaces for the community that endure celebration, speeches, mourning and wakes. Music is played, children dance, and adults talk and play together. Yes, I would love for church to be like an Irish pub (minus the beer and smoke, of course), a third place that is neither work nor home. Church can be the third place where we seek sanctuary and space to ask questions of our lives at work and at home. In the third place, we can step outside for a moment and sincerely ask: “What is going on here? What can I celebrate? What needs transformation or healing?”

Sometimes, our usual places become places of escape – we dive into work to escape the demands of staying in relationship with our loved ones during challenging times. Or we micromanage our family life at home less as a way of loving and more as a way of gaining some semblance of control in a chaotic, messy world. Let the church be a neutral place where you can come and reflect on the other places in your life. More importantly, allow the church to be a place that expands your sense of place. Where have you not placed yourself and why? Someone else’s shoes? Someone else’s home? Who are or what has not been placed in your life?

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