Posted by: Postordinandy | August 13, 2009

2nd Souls & 3rd Places

We have been introduced to the idea of 3rd places through the book Exiles. Put simply, it is the idea that most people behave or present themselves differently – depending on where they are and with whom.

The phrase was coined by the sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his book The Great Good Place, and Frost sums up the concept this way:

exiles“In Oldenburg’s thinking, our first place is the home and the people with whom we live. Our second place is the workplace, the place where we spend most of our waking life. But the third places in our society are the bedrock of community life and all the benefits that come from such interaction. It might be a restaurant or a bar. It might be a social group such as a Rotary or Elks club or a quilting circle or a water-skiing community. It might be a physical location such as a coffee shop or a beach or a mall. Your third place is the place where you like to just relax and be you.

(Michael Frost: Exiles, p.57)

We have flirted with 3rd place concept in different ways in St Luke’s recent history, notably with respect to our activities at the Pop-In Café.

One of our church members had also come across the concept of 1st and 2nd Souls. Although certainly not an orthodox belief – or one we necessarily subscribe to – the idea is an interesting one. According to this theory, the 1st Soul is that of God – always within us, although we are often unaware of it. The 2nd soul is our individual passions – our hobbies and other things that energise us in a positive way. This draws a little on Plato and modernity’s love affair with the concept of a sacred/secular split that we may not subscribe to, but our often-compartmentalised lives appear to demonstrate!

Although the 2nd Soul may be a little ‘out there’ for many of us, we liked the idea of being aware of our individual passions, and linking them somehow to the various missional activities that we are involved in.

We wondered whether a 3rd place might be where we could connect these ‘two souls’ or concepts. If this is the case, then the bigger question for our church might be: “do we then attempt to create some form of 3rd place, or do we join one or more existing ones?” If the answer is the former option, then what would it look like? If the latter, what are the appropriate places for us?

It was interesting to note, as we discussed around these ideas, that we were a very diverse group in terms of our passions and preferences. If you know any of our group, see if you can match the stated passion to the individual:

  • Nutrition
  • Children
  • Sailing
  • Music
  • Film
  • Football
  • Grandchildren
  • VW Beetles
  • singing, and
  • sheds/compost heaps!

It seems clear that there is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ 3rd place that will suit all of us. The sensible option may be for us to find one or two others with whom we share some interest or passion, and invest into it in a way that enables us to become part of a 3rd place. This could mean joining or creating such a place, depending on the interest in question. The important thing is to find something that is natural for us – that gives us life – and into which we can, naturally, shine a little of God’s colours and flavours into the world


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