I just so happen to be writing this from Starbucks. Starbucks claims their goal is to become the Third Place in our daily lives. (i.e. Home, Work and Starbucks) “We want to provide all the comforts of your home and office. You can sit in a nice chair, talk on your phone, look out the window, surf the web… oh, and drink coffee too,” said Kelly the store manager (Notice she put “drink coffee” last???). I like doing work at Starbucks and I’m here so frequently that I’ve come to know the baristas and regular customers stop and say hi. I come here because it’s a quiet place where I can get some work done with minimal interruptions but as I look around I’d guess many come here as a form of community and connection. Just a few weeks ago a long time barista moved to California. It was pretty amazing to see the store throw her a “going away party” and many customers came to support and encourage her new adventure. This begs the question…is this real community? And does Starbucks provide more of a community then many churches?
Gill Valentine in her comprehensive book Social Geographies covers the way we use space and how it impacts us. Social geographies “is perhaps best summed up as the study of social relations and spatial structures that underpin those relations.” The Church has a lot to learn from Valentines research on the eight spatial scales (body, home, community, institutions, the street, the city, rural, and nation).
I was drawn to Valentines description of “community” and think the Church has much to discuss about Valentines findings. Valentine states, “It is argued that communities can exist without a territorial base or that neighbourhoods can have no sense of communal ties or cohesions, that community has no analytical value because it means so many different things to different people and that is probably only a romanticized concept anyway.” Is Valentine correct? I believe it is true that community means so many different things to different people but does that negate what real Acts 2 community offers? Is community a romanticized concept?
I wonder if the superficial community many churches provide has only fueled the argument that community in and of itself is a romanticized concept?
Sitting in Starbucks a few weeks ago was a room full of very diverse people encouraging a barista on her upcoming move. It really was the Third Place. Different economic levels, races, sexual orientations, educations, etc. coming together to encourage and send off a friend. I’ll be honest, in some ways it felt superficial but it other ways it was beautiful too. There was a beautiful sense of community in that room. It definitely felt different from what I am use to. I’m use to being a part of my suburban white church. Everyone looks like me, thinks like me, acts like me…While I have some deep “community” at my church I’ve been challenged by Valentine to think of real community as being welcoming of greater diversity. Valentine states, “Rather than celebrating artificial attempts to establish unity and homogeneity between groups identities (sameness) we should be celebrating the distinctive cultures and characteristics of different groups (difference).”
I go to Starbucks because it’s a quiet place where I can get some work done with minimal interruptions. I wonder if I should start going there more to participate in community?
 Matthew Dollinger, “STARBUCKS, ‘THE THIRD PLACE’, AND CREATING THE ULTIMATE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE,”, accessed May 14, 2015, http://www.fastcompany.com/887990/starbucks-third-place-and-creating-ultimate-customer-experience.
 Gill Valentine, Social Geographies: Space and Society (Harlow, England.: Routledge, 2001), 1.
 Ibid., 137