My bedside reading these days is a book called, The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons and other hangouts at the Heart of a Community by Ray Oldenburg. It is the birthplace of the concept of Third Places. Anyway I read something the other night that made me pause....
An investigation was done by the Presbyterian church in the state of Indiana in 1911 where it found that "80% of churches were strenuously opposed to social activities, even those sponsored by the church itself... Churches were weakest in membership and enthusiasm in precisely those villages that lacked informal gathering places and there, also, was where saloons of the unsavory kind took advantage of the void in wholesome play, recreation and informal association. The prevailing attitude of the clergy was that social life would not save anyone. One parson voiced the typical view, declaring that, 'what the churches need is not social life but more spiritual life.' Two clear conclusions were drawn: (1) Community social life is necessary for healthy religious life, and (2) If the church is going to succeed it must recognize the social needs of the community and assume its share of the leadership in social activities."
We are finding this to be true in the Open Door as we invest in and seek to enhance the social life of the East End through organizations and other third places that build community and enhance the while of our community. Spaces, places and people like, the Union Project, in particular Homegrown Saturdays coming up, a coffee shop called the Quiet Storm, a bar called the Sharp Edge, the Highland Park Community Club, and the Penn Ave Arts Initiative. These are amazing places and people who we see as essential parts of the fabric of our community and neighborhoods.
What other spaces and places are you investing in that are building a vibrant social life in your communities and neighborhoods?