Friday, June 15, 2007

Up/rooted.north recap with Pernell

A big thanks to Pernell and Matt from The Freeway for joining us at up/rooted.north last night, and the 20ish people who came out. Pernell talked a bit about third places in general (recommending Ray Oldenburg’s The Great Good Place): there must be no pressure to consume, there must be new people constantly, and there must be a consistent group of regular people. I confess, I kept thinking of Cheers through this whole section. Where everyone knows your name...

But the evening wasn’t as much about third places in general as it was about how the intentional third place of The Freeway is central to its life as a missional community. Seriously, if you want to know what being a missional church is all about, spend two hours with Pernell. The Freeway, in Pernell’s words, purchased a bank building on the busiest corner of Hamilton, Ontario that wasn’t for sale with no money. They turned it into a 5-days-a-week coffeehouse with volunteer baristas, regular showcases of local musicians and artists, and a growing involvement in their neighborhood. It is a place with no pressure to consume, created intentionally to be a third place in their community, where people can come and develop relationships. Community groups hold meetings there, people come in for coffee and wi-fi, the homeless come in for shelter from the cold and heat (and often are offered food and drink and to spend the night as well). The list goes on and on of the missional ways they are using this place.

Pernell said more than I can hope to summarize here, and I was just blown away at how the mission of Jesus to his people (or as Mark Van Steenwyk would say, the Jesus Manifesto) is driving all these creative ways The Freeway is responding to and serving their neighborhood.

Pernell stressed that a third place is not an add-on program, not a new fad for the church. It is central to the shape of The Freeway, and it can’t really be done any other way. But I can't help but think that those of us in churches not shaped around a third place can still learn from The Freeway. So for those of us in missional churches with traditional buildings (or no building of our own), what can we apply from the experience of The Freeway to our own local bodies? Can our homes or our local coffeeshops become third places of community on a smaller scale? What are creative ways to intentionally engage people in third places without buying and running your own coffeeshop?

1 comment:

carol s. said...

I think the things I have reflected upon the most since hearing Pernell are these (and I didn't take notes, so do tell if I didn't remember any of this as you perhaps did):
a)forming/building community is a foundational goal of The Freeway (superceding excellent worship services, etc);
b) they blew up their small groups because they not only didn't contribute to the development of community but seemed to impede it;
c) Pernell's statment (that I tend to agree with) about how we don't practice/don't "do" community very well.

Questions I'm wondering about: In a more traditional church setting with a mission statment to make disciples of Christ with the purpose of leading more people into a growing relationship with Christ, how would our function and decision-making change if creating Christlike community was a core value? Is that a necessary core value in order to become a missional church?

Also, (and I think this corelates to the question about 'creative ways to intentionally engage people') I'd be interested to hear what ways other than operating a coffee house and having a mid-week barbeque help are used in your particular setting to build community (if small groups are not very helpful...is that anyone else's experience, by the way)?

Lastly, perhaps the prayer 'help us to live with one another' is an important corollary to 'help us to love one another?'

carol s.