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coffee shops and third place

Many coffee shops thrive as a “third place.”  People gather to meet with one another, hold meetings, share stories and tears, all over a cup of (hopefully) good coffee.  The idea behind a “third place” is simple: After home and work, people need a third place to go — a place to socialize and reconnect.  People need to feel a sense of community.  Coffee shops like Starbucks and Peets have built a strong reputation as a “third place.”

Which makes this morning’s observation a little ironic.

I’m sitting in one of the aforementioned third places and it’s filled with people.  The only thing most of them seem connected to is the Internet.  If they are socializing, it is on Facebook.  To be fair, some of them are on their phones.  Not talking on their phones but on their phones nonetheless.

What is it about a coffee shop that draws together individual, isolated people and allows them to sit in isolation and still feel “connected”?

For me, I got in the habit years ago of writing my sermon and class materials while at a coffee shop.  Some preachers prefer a quiet study; I like to eavesdrop and absorb by osmosis. Since I will eventually be preaching my sermon to people, I like to write it while among people.  Most of them will never hear it but, in their own way, they’ve contributed to it.

Which brings me back to the idea of a third place.  A person can have more than one third place.  In fact, many of us do.  Church, Starbucks, the gym, a bar, a soccer field, or a book club.

I hope you’ve found your third place.  Of course, I am biased.  I believe a healthy church community is the best place of all.  Try it.  You might like it.  You might just find your place.