My wings were repeatedly banging against the stained glass windows. So, I began to imagine church the way I believe Jesus might had imagined it, the way that would model his life and walk the most.
Here’s how this all started for me. Well, let me just start from several months back since the entire story will come in bits and pieces through future posts, I'm sure. Early spring, I was attending a symposium sponsored by the Divinity School at Wake Forest University. During the event, as I sat in the back of the auditorium that was sparsely filled with mostly WFU students (no, I’m not one), I heard one of the presenters use the phrase “third space” in reference to where people go to relax and “let their hair down.”
I thought of my “third space” like coffeehouses, and I thought how for many, particularly in the African-American community, the church used to be (and perhaps still is for some) the space where we could, in a sense, feel at home and in community.
As a child growing up in the African-American church, spending Sundays at the church my father pastored felt just as welcoming and loving as home. But as an adult, the more I grew in my personal relationship with Christ, the more I found the traditional church (in general) to be an uncomfortable and challenging place for me. That’s when the dilemma and tension came, mostly internally.
Let me say upfront that I have no interest in or intention of bashing the church. That's not what this blog nor 3rdSpaces.Com is about. The church has been a tremendous blessing in my life. Fortunately, I'm one of those who have not been deeply scarred by religion (at least, I don't think I so). I have much love for the church and the place for religion; and respect for what I like to think the original intention of both were.
I'm blessed to come from a long line of religious family members with great minds, hearts and spirits. They provided a firm foundation on which I stand. My father is deceased but his teachings (mostly through action) remain sketched in my mind as a true testament of his faith and love of Christ. And my brother, who is a pastor, is also one of my spiritual mentors with whom I am able to have these deep, heartfelt conversations. Their commitment, along with many others who I'm blessed to have in my life, to the church inspires me.
Yet, I am uniquely me and I believe God speaks to and through me. With my spiritual growth came this feeling I could not ignore: I was outgrowing church as I knew it. My beliefs about Jesus and Christianity, as I started spending more time studying and praying (and stopped simply going through the motions of church life), were leading me to new territory and away from where I felt closed in. Restricted. I wanted to stretch but didn’t have room in which to do so. My wings were banging against the stained glass windows.
So, I began to imagine religion and church the way I believe Jesus might had imagined it when he walked the earth. I would daydream about it, and what I saw in my mind wasn’t what I was seeing or experiencing on any given day at any given church (and I've been to a lot of churches in a lot of denominations).
I don't want to argue the benefits of being in "the house of the Lord" and the Christian characteristic of sabbath worship. I know that (and believe the sanctuary is anywhere that God is and has thereby made holy). What I also know is that the church, as it has been, no longer fits for everyone, even those who deeply love Christ. That used to concern me, but I believe it's okay. God did not create one form of worship, prayer, fellowship, just as he didn't create one type of follower.
As I began to ponder, through prayer and in my heart, what the true spirit of church, faith, and "Christianity" mean, and I surrendered and embraced the vision God had given me (not with ease, trust me), the floodgates of my heart opened and a love I haven’t felt about anything else began to rush through me. That’s when I set a date: today, June 23, 2013 -- my 41st birthday -- to begin the journey outwardly, and launch 3rdSpaces.Com.
I can only imagine where our conversations and explorations in this virtual community will lead us. I put no parameters on them but instead lay out the tablecloth, bread and wine, and ask those who are passionate about being who God has called them to be to come and feast on what we know, what is given, and what we have no way of yet knowing.
This third space is where a part of us already exists everyday. Let's welcome each other and the space itself into a greater awareness by simply being open and awake for such a time as this.
"Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it?" Isaiah 43:18