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  • Writer's pictureRev. Joel L. Tolbert

Top Three

Last week, I attended a conference in Montreat, NC. Well, I registered for the conference, and did attend the morning and evening worship events. I spent most of my mornings and afternoons grading Theology ordination exams for seminary students who hope to become pastors.

I did commit to one small group called "Thirsting for Theology." Pastors and church staff went out into the world, coffee shops, pubs, breweries and asked ourselves three questions:

1) Where is the line here between secular and sacred?

2) What is being served here?

3) Who might choose this as their third place?

"Third place" is a term created by sociologist Ray Oldenburg to identify the places people spend considerable time besides home ('first' place) and work ('second' place). Decades ago, church was a very popular third place. Sure, people came together for worship at church, but they also came together for meals, parties, to serve each other or their neighbors, to learn something, to care for children, to get married, to bury, to hear about local or national issues, to vote.

Today, the church has lost the honor of being an obvious third place. As the church has become more protective of itself, the church has become less open to others beyond church, so others beyond church have stopped coming to church.

Today, as you pray for these individuals in and beyond the church, near and far, I'd ask each of us to pause and imagine one new way this church could become as essential place for someone in need? Is there something this congregation could sponsor, support, or start that would become someone's home away from home? If you are given an idea or vision, would you write me and let me know?

Blessings, Laughter, and Loving be yours,

Rev. Joel

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