Grandma’s Stuffing – A Third Space story

4TOq6PhIEvery Thanksgiving my family makes the same kind of stuffing we have made for years; the recipe has been handed down through at least three generations. It is one of my favorite components of the meal because its presence makes my grandmother present at the table, even though she has passed from this life. Unlike other family recipes that are no longer at the table, the stuffing remains. It remains because it is a meaningful tradition; it connects me to people I still love though gone, cooking it leads to laughing over stories of my Gran, and it tastes awesome. It is tradition, but it is alive and meaningful.

But there are dishes that are no longer on the table that were once part of the fare. For various reasons, they are no longer present. We didn’t like the flavor of the cranberry relish; the corn pudding simply didn’t stir up the feelings of the stuffing. And so the tradition modified to include new dishes we like that we will hand down, while also keeping the old dishes that still meant something to us. We kept major parts of the traditional meal, but we tweaked it so that it was more meaningful to us- and more delicious!

All good traditions are constantly in flux, finding a balance between what works and what no longer has relevance, and adding in new components to impart more meaning to the tradition. All traditions are subject to review and evaluation, which is why I propose we subject our Christian, worshipping traditions to the same scrutiny. As attendance declines, one has to ask why and generally the why has something to do with culture and something to do with the perceived irrelevance of the institution. So why not look at the tradition, keep major parts that are still meaningful, let go of parts that are not meaningful, and add in now components that have increased relevance today?

There is no reason we have to worship God using the same patterns that have prevailed for the last half-century. It is interesting that while the rest of culture has undergone enormous shifts and changes, the houses of Christian worship have largely not participated in that change. No wonder their relevancy rating has dropped! But change is difficult, especially when folks experience such rapid culture shifts and hope that church remains a place of stability. But what is stability; is stability a continuation of the same? Or can stability be a shifting of tradition, a modifying of the inherited past so that it cultivates more meaning and relevance for those in the present?

I think how we worship God and gather to talk about our spirituality can look different. Imagine a space in which folks from every walk of life could gather together around a common table, sharing a meal and sharing their lives. A space we could talk about what is happening in our lives and where God is in the midst of them. A space where we read together, discuss together, and pray together. If that sounds like an experience to test out, let me tell you about Third Space. Third Space is a gathering of folks who share a meal, share our lives, and try to figure out where God is in our lives and in the world. You’ll find us in downtown Brookville at coffee shop once every month. We’ll be there eating and talking about God, trying to figure out how to be the people God calls us to be in our community.

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.

“Youth Group and Christian Outreach” by Nina Palattella

Welcome to a new series where we will hear from Nina Palattella about her experience as a Christian in her senior year of High School.  Nina will write a blog post about once a month over the course of the school year. This is her second installment.  Click here to see the first one.

Hello again and thank you for joining me for my second blog post! I hope you have all had a swell month. My time has been occupied by the beginnings of college applications and lots of essays as my senior year of high school has progressed in full force. In addition to the new school year, the arrival of the fall season also brings a new year for my youth group, which led me to the idea to make this post about Christian outreach. I would suggest that any teens and youth in the audience especially stick around for this one—make yourself comfortable and stay a while!

11954753_482870405213312_9168523237462758084_nWhen I was younger, I participated in youth programs that were specific to my church, such as Sunday school and Rite 13, our small teen fellowship group; last year, program leaders from three churches in the Episcopal Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania in my area, including my own, banded together with the idea to combine the youth groups from the three churches into one “Episcopal community for youth” known as The Vine; the group takes its name from a verse in the Gospel—“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 5:15). Anyone from those churches (and any friends who are invited and always welcome to join) in middle school through twelfth grade can participate in the group’s biweekly meetings that may include mission trips, fun outings or overnight gatherings.

While the three congregations mentioned above constitute the roots of the group (pun somewhat intended), other churches in the diocese have helped the group and our mission, whether by spending time with our group, hosting us in their parishes, or simply by expressing their support, and with their help the impact that our work 11081471_421588111341542_4785778058643413919_ncan have reaches far beyond the limits of our central congregations. This past March, the Vine took a “mini-mission” trip to Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Brookville, PA. I had never visited the small parish before, and I was stunned by the beauty of the church building; the wood in the church’s interior needed some restoration, and after the volunteers from Erie exchanged greetings with the members of Holy Trinity who would be joining us for the morning, we began our task, armed with buckets of polish and rags with which to do our work. It was nice to have a job that gave some degree of instant gratification—after a few minutes of polishing, the walls, pews and altars had a shiny, richer color; they felt smoother and better equipped to endure decades of more worship. Once we had completed our labor, we were given a tour of the surrounding small town, and took part in a variety of activities, including a short late-night worship service and a movie. The next morning, the approximately twenty members of The Vine joined the regular Sunday congregation at Brookville for a spirited worship service led by Rev. Melinda Hall, a great preacher and friend whom I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know for the past few years at summer camp.

11406955_850522778357978_5965102601537077651_nSpeaking of summer camp, this is a great time to mention that, while youth groups are likely the most common way that young people can get involved in their church and its ministry, they are by no means the only way. Each summer, I attend an overnight camp for Episcopal youth who have completed grades two through twelve, the majority of whom are from the Diocese of Northwestern Pennsylvania. Throughout the week, campers participate in many religious activities, such as daily Eucharist, program sessions based on that day’s Gospel lesson, and a Taizé service; in addition, the camp offers a variety of activities that are just plain fun, like hiking, crafts, 4 Square, and night swims (which is just about the coolest thing you could possibly imagine when you’re ten years old). It’s an excellent place where kids can get to know their religion, teens can explore how their personal faith is important to them, and everyone gets to build a community with each other that will remain after the week has ended.

Though not every church may possess these opportunities exactly, each church has something to offer in terms of outreach, whether that means volunteering at community dinners or food pantries, handing out bulletins before the service, or simply getting to know some of the people whom you see every Sunday—but it doesn’t have to stop there or be just that. I’ve learned from the experiences described above and others that some of the best Christian outreach happens outside of the typical places like churches or even youth groups. It can be as simple as helping someone through a difficulty in their life or spending time with the people whom you care about. There are an infinite number of ways to be kind, and as Christians (and as people) that is what we are most called to do.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post; please leave any questions or comments below!

Nina Palattella,

Third Space – A new worship Community

lightning ChurchChurch. 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.

An Experience Worth Repeating

The Vine, a community for youth in 6th-12th grade and a collaborative ministry of the Episcopal churches in Erie County, completed their first service trip this past March. They visited Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, in Brookville, PA to help care for the pews and tongue and groove walls.  The walls are made of Pine and require periodic oiling which hadn’t been done since the 1990’s.  The church was very grateful for the help.  Nina Palattella age 17, from the Cathedral of St. Paul describes her experience below. 14575_421588328008187_1905592289553097637_nI had the fortune of traveling with The Vine, an Episcopal community for youth centered in Erie, PA, to Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Brookville, PA, on March 21-22. While in the church, I and fifteen other youth helped by polishing the wooden walls and the pews of the beautiful church. During a break in our work, Pastor Melinda was kind enough to walk us down to the town dam not far from the church. After spending the night in the parish hall, we were served a wonderful breakfast that was prepared by one of the parishioners at Holy Trinity, and then attended the morning worship. We were met with incredible hospitality throughout our stay by all of the members of the church, who were very grateful for our work, and for that I would like to thank them. I chose to attend the trip because I was excited to have the opportunity to help the wider Episcopal community. I enjoyed the experience because I got to help people in my church community, and I knew that what we were doing would last for a long time. Many people thanked us at the service in the morning, and I was glad to know that they appreciated the work we had done for them. I think that our first mission trip as The Vine was a success and definitely an experience worth repeating. ~Nina Palattella, Cathedral of St. Paul