From what I observe, Forge tends to focus on more secularized spaces, so you’ll read Mike Frost talking about emerging initiatives in coffee shops, pubs, shoe stores, art exhibitions and the like.
By way of contrast, Thin Places tends to focus on more sacralized spaces, so you’ll read us talking about alternate spirituality festivals, neopagan community spaces and the like.
So we operate in different spheres. Or do we? You see, this distinction I am drawing needs to be tempered by recognition that one of the signposts of post-modernity is the breakdown of sacred-secular dichotomies. There are significant areas of overlap. For example, you’ll also see us involving ourselves in pagans-in-the-pub gatherings and spirituality-based art exhibitions where the lines between our respective approaches become very blurred. And, Ferals aside for one moment, most of the people we interact with frequent urban coffee shops, pubs and shoe stores and are amongst the types most likely to open up on spirituality related questions, so its not as if Forgers wont be encountering the same people, we just encounter them in different contexts. Finally, few who visit the Mind Body Spirit festivals will be left in any doubt about the commercial motivations of many of the store holders.
Makes me wonder if it would be better to speak of sacralized SECULAR spaces and secularized SACRED spaces!
But however we frame it there are real differences between these third places and this does shape our respective missiological responses. In the third places I incarnate into, spirituality related questions are typically far closer to the surface than you would expect them to be in a coffee shop or shoe store, even when a common individual may be in view, so we’ve spent a lot more energy on forging new approaches to post-modern apologetics and learning from other religions. But conversely I suspect we're encountered more suspicion as to our motivations as to why we are in such spaces, so outside the normal comfort zones of Christians (Are you safe? Are you open?), than we would in that coffee shop or shoe store. And we’ve struggled a lot more in terms of building coherent communities given the more transient nature of these spaces. So there are different opportunities and different challenges, even though we share a common commitment to incarnational mission.
So in considering all this I am led to ask, are there third places out there that none of us are connecting with yet? I’m sure there are, and I’m sure that will lead to even more diversity. I just hope we can integrate all these different perspectives one day.