Church. Does the word make you feel pleased or pained; does it cause you to cringe from painful memories or feel slightly nostalgic? Odds are the word has some impact on you because most Americans have had some experience of attending church, avoiding church, or being hurt by the church. I fall into the ‘attending church’ category, which isn’t so surprising since I’m an Episcopal priest, but my reaction to the word ‘church’ is a bit mixed. I find so much richness in the prayers and in the worship, but sometimes I wonder about what I’ve sung or said and whether it has relevance in my life.
Attendance in all churches–not just those in the mainline–has fallen sharply, revealing that lots of us are pondering the relevance of the Sunday morning experience. To many, particularly Millennials (of which I am one), church seems antique, something lovely and old, something one’s parents or grandparents attended, but which has little bearing on day-to-day life. Sitting in a pew, puzzling through hymns with words like ‘vouchsafe’ and ‘wilt’ can have the cadence of irrelevance. Equally, many people may be skeptical of worship that feels too much like entertainment or is just a little too slick. It begs the question whether worship as we know it is relevant to our lives.
Here’s what I think. I think Jesus is relevant. And I think the coming together of people to learn to love and be loved by God, each other, and their neighbors is relevant. But I think it can look different. Why couldn’t we gather together and talk about Jesus and how that might change our lives and the world? What if we shared a meal while we shared our stories? What if it was a space where I could come and you could come and your gay neighbor and your divorced sister, your disillusioned aunt and your addicted brother could come and we receive equal welcome and equal embrace?
We all live in a variety of spaces: home, work, the park, the café. Our first space is home and for a lot of us, our second space is work. But what sociologists have found is that we need a third space, somewhere we can be ourselves and find community. A third space is a place where you can be who you are and be in relationship with others and find purpose.
Let me introduce you to Third Space, a gathering of folks where we share a meal, share our lives, and try to figure out where God is in our lives and in the world. We’re meeting in the local coffee shop once a month, trying to figure out how Jesus is present in our lives and in our community. Gathered around a meal, we talk about God and we share our lives, then we go back out into our neighborhood differently. We’re finding our third space, a place of honesty with each other and with God. The Spirit has been moving in our lives as we’ve begun gathering, and we’re not entirely sure which direction she’s moving, but we excited to be along for the ride!
By the Rev. Melinda Hall, Vicar at Trinity Memorial, Brookville, PA, Church of Our Savior, DuBois, Pa and leader of Third Space that meets at CREATE Cafe (168 Main St. Brockville, PA) Third Wednesday of the month from 7:30-9p.