Experiments in Spiritual Community at 3rd Place

3 Oct

It has been a quite a first month -

Just a month ago we received the keys to the storefront space at 132 Appalachian Street in Boone and we began an experiment in spiritual community.   On that first weekend two campus ministers and three students gathered in an empty space to begin to put on paper the basic concepts and ideas that might be realized in that storefront.    I don’t think that any of us imagined how quickly those ideas would begin to be realized.    We’re still painting, we’re still just getting started, but already the Spirit is enlivening a variety of activities at 3rd Place.   We’re calling our new space, THIRD PLACE – it’s not your home (first place); it’s not your workplace or school (second place); it’s a different kind of place altogether. Third Places welcome all who enter to be themselves in community. Within their doors, we have the freedom to learn and play and pray without fear.

On 9/11 we hosted an interfaith conversation.  Natalie, one of the student leaders, invited interfaith groups on campus including Hillel, the Muslim Student Association, the Pagan Student Association, and several others to come to 3rd Place for conversation.   About 25 folks showed up.   All were welcomed them to 3rd Place, then we shared a meal, and took the time to be with one another.   After the meal Natalie shared a brief internet video on the history of religious diversity and conflicts in this country.    She also reviewed a basic covenant for conversation and a few questions to spark conversation.   The group divided into 4 smaller groups and spent the next 30 minutes in great conversation.   All came together for a wrap-up.    There was clearly energy to continue the conversation and a clear desire for interfaith spiritual community to continue in some form or fashion.    Some leaders were identified to figure out how that might happen and 3rd Place was offered as a space where that might happen.   We shared prayers and closed with common blessings.  It was an amazing evening.

Everyday has been amazing in one way or another.   Nearly every time the door is open and we intentionally welcome folks to come in and experience 3rd Place we find a connection or a possible way that their gifts might be shared in this space.   This past Friday evening I was showing 3rd Place to a WCF Alum.   Of course a few folks came in to check it out.  There is a lot of curiosity about what is happening at 3rd Place and since it isn’t open regularly yet, people will pop-in when the door is open and the lights are on.   The first to come in was a pair of students who were interested in the art, especially the photography.   After some conversation I came to discover that this young woman is a photographer, so I invited her to sign the guest book, provide her email, and begin to consider when she might share photos for a show.    As this couple departed I saw a former student on the street and invited him in.   His roommate joined him a few moments later.  As we talked about the ideas and dreams for 3rd Place we found that Sam, the roommate of my former student, is a musician.  He and several other musicians who play in the worship bands at various campus ministries on various evenings have been looking for a place to play together.   I of course said, “let’s talk – this might be the place.  We’re going to be starting a worshipping community at 3rd Place.   We’ve talked since.   Just yesterday Sam was part of a conversation where we began to brainstorm what worship might feel like at 3rd Place.

We’ll see where the Spirit leads, what the Spirit makes possible, and who the Spirit brings into this experiment.   A month in – and it is happening!

If you would like to follow what is happening at 3rd Place in Boone – “like” the facebook page – 3rd Place Boone.

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Rev. Tommy Brown (tbrownmdiv@gmail.com) is Presbyterian Campus Minister at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC having served in this position since 2002.  He is a life coach in process of certification and founder of College/Life Engagement Coaching.  He also serves as adjunct faculty at ASU teaching courses in the Recreation Management and First Year Seminar programs.   He received his MDiv from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 1990 and his BA in English/Theater from Maryville College in 1984.  He and his wife Karen, a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, have two sons Hayden a junior at Maryville College and Shafer a high school senior at UNC School of the Arts.   In July of 2012 his book Unscripted: Engaging Life after College published by Parson’s Porch Press will be released and available on Amazon.com, and other sources including from Tommy.

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