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A Third Place

Two days ago, I received an email to consider applying to be part of Leadership Columbia, a local organization that seeks to help community leaders sharpen their leadership skills in order to better serve the residents of our own Howard County. At the moment, I know of one parishioner who is part of this year’s cohort, and from what I've read, they have found it to be very useful.

The email also invited me to an information session, which I attended. It was very informative. I got the chance to meet some of the leaders who've also been invited to consider applying; I met an Episcopalian, which was good. As part of this information session, we toured a new restaurant that sprung up a few months ago where Clyde’s once stood. Those who have been long-term residents of Columbia would likely remember Clyde’s, considered to be a decent restaurant with great food.

The restaurant has a unique name - The 3rd.. We were informed that the name was carefully chosen for the purpose of offering space as the Third place within Columbia. This particular place was designed to be a welcoming environment for anyone who wanted to gather with others, collaborate, unwind, fellowship, and/or share a meal or drink with others.

What actually generated some curiosity for me was what she said about the fact that we all have three places: home, work, and a third. And they wanted to offer their space as a third place option for the community.

When I returned to the office, I quickly went online and typed in "third place," and learned that it was coined by a sociologist, Ray Oldenburg, in 1980. According to him, we all have the First place, which is our home. The Second place is a place of work. And the Third place is one that's outside of home or work where individuals like you and me can gather. It could be anywhere, but the 3rd place is where you relax in public, get to meet people - some familiar to us - and make new friends.

As I read about the Third place, I wondered if Jesus had a Third place. Indeed, he didn’t have a home he could call his own, nor did he have a career that required him to be at a particular place for a certain number of hours in a day - a place where he could clock in and out. He was all over the place, an itinerant preacher similar to a present-day plumber or electrical contractor who doesn’t work on only one house in one area, but on several houses in multiple areas.

In spite of the fact that Jesus didn’t have a first place or a second place, as Oldenburg defines them, the gospels reveal to us that Jesus often withdrew from the crowd and his disciples and spent some time by himself - and that, to me, was his Third place moment. It was a place of rejuvenation and renewal, a place where he could anchor himself ever deeper in his challenging ministry and life.

As we live into the glories of this Easter season - where we celebrate life, its newness, and its constant renewal - I wonder if you also have a Third place. I wonder if you have a place for renewal and rejuvenation, one where you can anchor yourself, deepen existing relationships, and make new ones. I wonder if you have a place where you feel welcomed and accepted for who you are. I wonder if you have a place where you can laugh with others. I wonder if you have a place where you can feel, touch, and be renewed by life.

We all need Third places, and the good news is that it can be anywhere - any place that we find welcoming, accessible, enriching, nurturing, accommodating, uplifting, playful, non-judgmental, full of humor and life. A place where each is affirmed, where we can find true fellowship and be anchored in generosity, compassion, and kindness.

Recognizing, therefore, that the Third place can be anywhere, it is my fervent prayer that you will continue to find and make Christ Church a thriving Third place for yourself and others.

Fr. Manny+


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