Fellowship of Saints and Sinners

Fellowship of Saints and Sinners


“What Is a Third Place?”

“Third place.”  If it’s not my position in a race to the ice cream running neck and neck with a five-year-old and a two-year-old, what is it? Fellow saint and sinner Lance Ford has posted an enlightening article (credit: Sentralized) on the nature of these “third places.”

And, having read the article, I’m struck by two things in particular: that on a list of our primary gathering places, “church” as it has traditionally been defined doesn’t even make the cut (home, or neighborhood, and places of work, are first and second places, respectively, with cafes, book shops, salons, farmer’s markets, pubs and other communal spaces vying for third); and, second, that according to a description of the eight characteristics of “third places” as defined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg, in his 1999 book, The Great Good Place, “Fellowship of Saints and Sinners” qualifies (albeit as a virtual gathering place).

All of this to say…I want Fellowship of Saints and Sinners to be that “third place” for us.  A place where we can find safe, neutral ground away from our churches and their tiresome, denominational feuds and political in-fighting.  A place where it doesn’t matter where we come from or what we look like or believe- because ultimately we’re all somewhere on a journey of conversion- and where conversation happens across all these divides.  A place where we can laugh and poke fun at ourselves.  A place where we can ask hard questions and disagree respectfully with one another.  A place where there really aren’t any expectations for showing up- and when we do, we keep it low-key, fun, engaging and conversational, like a home away from home.

Here are the definition and characteristics of a “third place,” as excerpted from the Sentralized article:

But what exactly is a Third Place? According to Oldenburg the first place is our home and the people with whom we live. The second place is where we work and the place we spend the majority of our waking hours. A Third Place is a public setting that hosts regular, voluntary, and informal gatherings of people. It is a place to relax and have the opportunity to know and be known by others. It is a place people like to “hang out.”

Oldenburg identifies eight characteristics that Third Places share:

  • Neutral Ground. People are free to come and go as they please. There are no time requirements or invitations needed. Much of our lives in first places and second places are structured, but not so in Third Places.
  • Act as a Leveler. People from all walks of life gather in Third Places. There are no social or economic status barriers.
  • Conversation is the Main Activity. The talk is lively, stimulating, colorful, and engaging.
  • Assessable and Accommodating. They tend to be conveniently located, often within walking distance of one’s home.
  • There are Regulars. It is easy to recognize that many patrons are regulars at the establishment. But unlike other places, newcomers are welcomed into the group.
  • Low Profile. As a physical structure, they are typically plain and unimpressive in appearance.
  • Mood is Playful. With food, drink, games, and conversation present, the mood is light and playful. The mood encourages people to stay longer and to come back repeatedly.
  • A Home Away From Home. At their core they are places where people feel at home. They feel like they belong there, and typically have a sense of ownership.

Why is it so important for Christ followers to understand the concept of Third Places? Because the vast majority of people in the United States are living isolated, relationally impoverished lives. And Third Places offer an opportunity for missionally minded people to do life in proximity to others.

So, my question for you is this: how might Fellowship of Saints and Sinners better live into its identity as a third place? What are some things that we can be doing that we’re not already? What features, ethos, content can we cultivate to make this online gathering place a safe and fun hang-out where folks can be themselves (as much as they “virtually” can be)?  Leave your input below, or, if you’d prefer more confidentiality, shoot me an e-mail: kristinarobbdover@gmail.com.

Tomorrow, thanks to a number of your suggestions: pastors as fashion gurus??? WTF?



Previous Posts

The Rise of the "Spiritual But Not Religious"
Here at this intersection between God and life, I'm always interested in news pertaining to those who call themselves "spiritual but not religious"—hence this article from The New York Times featuring the work of three other authors who, like me, are responding to the epithet that now describes on

posted 5:53:50pm Jul. 27, 2014 | read full post »

Are You Opposed to People Owning Guns? Via John Piper
[caption id="attachment_5235" align="alignleft" width="339"] Jim Eliot and 4 other missionaries were killed in Ecuador by Auca Indians. The missionaries had guns but chose to fire them in the air rather than at their attackers who had spears. The Aucas have since embraced Christ in great number.[/ca

posted 11:40:36am Jul. 22, 2014 | read full post »

Mental Health Break— "Sea Song" and Lisa Hannigan
This week the theme of the sea put to music especially touched me as our family grieves the loss of my granddad.  My granddad was a lifelong sailor and lover of the sea, and we will scatter some of his ashes on the sea where he used to command our family's annual regatta from Shelter Island, New Yo

posted 11:16:49am Jul. 18, 2014 | read full post »

"Admiral John": A Granddaughter's Remembrances
It feels a bit like Groundhog Day: wasn't it just a couple months ago that I was sharing a granddaughter's reflections upon the death of a grandparent?  This past Saturday, my granddad John slipped away suddenly to join his late wife Peggy of 68 years who had been his companion until two months ago

posted 11:58:22am Jul. 15, 2014 | read full post »

Hostility Re: My Post on Guns in Georgia—A Lesson
Fellow saints and sinners, it's with some sadness and more fascination that I write after seeing the onslaught of fierce and even violently ad hominem attacks in response to my post from two days ago about Georgia's new gun rights legislation.  From here on out, these sorts of responses won't be to

posted 10:36:22am Jul. 14, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.