Drew Moser really makes me want to read this book:
I just finished Ray Oldenburg's intriguing book, The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons and other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community. It's a sociologist's look into the places that foster community. What makes them tick? How are they structured? Oldenburg calls these effective community gathering spots: "third places". They are informal, distinct locales that fosters community. Your home is your first place, and your work is your second place. Americans, by and large, have no third place, no informal gathering space to hang out, converse, and build relationships.
Some of the symptoms that reveal the need to establishing 'great good (third) places':
Our houses are no longer designed with the front porch as the focal point. We pull our car in our garage, enter the house from the garage, and never interact with our neighbors.
Even our coffee shops are more concerned with profitable efficiency. Hence, chains like Starbucks hiring speed/efficiency gurus to get your coffee order filled in under 3 minutes (or something like that)
Restaurants...even sit-down restaurants, adhere to the same goals. Get you in, get your food, and get out. It's interesting: on my most recent trip to Italy, we made a reservation for dinner at a local restaurant. The reservation reserved the table for us for the entire evening. . .
Statistically, American stress levels are extremely high, in proportion to our 'affluence'. We have no place to go, relax, and unwind with good company.
To put it another way...cultures that have 3rd places live on a healthy tripod of home, work, and 3rd place (cofee shop, pub, etc.) In America, we're walking through life on stilts (home and work), and we're burning out...
If we were to bring back the third place, consider the impact. In Oldenburg's words: "the stranger feels at home--nay, is at home..." (xxviii)
Being a pastor, Oldenburg's findings have profound insight on how we, as a faith community, design and create the spaces we occupy. Can't there be more to a worship space than pews and/or chairs, and a stage with a screen on the back wall? I hope so...