Saturday, October 13, 2007

Troisième Endroits*


Loved the front page story (below the fold) in the Friday, October 12 Washington Post. It's about a weekly French class in Alexandria, VA that has been meeting for more than 30 years. The teacher is in her 60s now, and many of the students are in their 80s. The oldest is 95. These women have shared their lives as they have slogged through the hard work of learning a second language as adults. Some now use walkers to make their way to the classroom, or have to be driven to class as they can no longer drive themselves. They have been through divorces, problems with children, cancer, chemotherapy, and other bumps in the road of life. The classes are conducted entirely in French, so when one woman was diagnosed with leukemia nine years ago she had to learn the French words for "cancer," "bone marrow," and "transplant" so she could tell her classmates what was going on.

My favorite line from the story: "Although there is power in telling your story, there is even more power in being heard." Even after thirty years, they have to listen to one another carefully since they are not conversing in their native language. What a reminder that listening is about so much more than waiting for your turn to talk.

Michael Frost, in his book Exiles: Living Missionally in a Post-Christian Culture, discusses the concept of "third places." These are the places, after home and work, to which people gravitate. Third places are where people go because they want to be there, places where they can let their hair down, be who they are, learn, grow, and be accepted. For those 12 women from Alexandria, a French class became a third place.

For many people, a faith community is their third place. For oh-so-many more, it is not. What is your third place? How could churches/synagogues/mosques be more sustaining and nurturing for those who claim them as a third place? How can we be welcoming to people seeking a third place? Questions to ponder late on a Saturday night. DISCUSS.

Reading Rev

*Third places

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