Ministry seeks to create open space for all
Right off of King Street in Boone, down the hill from Jimmy John's, there's an inconspicuous storefront with a bright red door and a small burgundy sign that simply reads, "3rd Place."
Created in August 2012, 3rd Place is a Presbyterian and Episcopalian ministry that seeks to be welcoming and inclusive of all people, according to its mission statement.
3rd Place is led by two part-time ministers, Rev. Beth Turner, who also pastors St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Burnsville, and Rev. Stephanie Hankins, Watauga Medical Center's chaplain. The ministry is funded by local churches St. Luke's Episcopal, First Presbyterian, Baird's Creek Presbyterian, St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal and Rumple Memorial, as well as Salem Presbytery and the Episcopal Diocese of Western North Carolina.
"We're trying to be a different kind of campus ministry," Turner said. "We're trying to focus not on the institutional practices but on the actual practices of Jesus."
The name "3rd Place" is a concept from sociologist Ray Oldenburg. Oldenburg described three types of places -- a first place is the home, a second place is a work or school setting and third places are community gathering places.
"Third places are places of open community," Turner said. "It's a place where everybody knows your name. It's a safe place."
So far, 3rd Place has set up a weekly schedule of programs, including everything from Bible studies to free yoga classes to a group for the LGBT community. They're also open several days a week for anyone who wants to just stop by and talk.
And right now, their biggest challenge is getting the word out.
"I don't know that we've been completely discovered by the community yet," said volunteer Jim Banks. "It's happening -- but it takes time."
Banks sits at 3rd Place every Thursday, available to have conversations with anyone who comes in. In the year that he's been a volunteer at 3rd Place, he's had conversations with people of all kinds of religious backgrounds.
"That's what this place can do that a church can't," Banks said. "People wouldn't feel safe the same way to walk into a church."
And that's the point of 3rd Place, Turner says -- to include and welcome all people the way they believe Jesus would.
"It's not about buildings, and it's not about money," Turner said. "It's more about seeing God's image in one another."
For more information, visit facebook.com/3rdplaceBoone/info or stop by 3rd Place at 132 Appalachian Street.